503 Service Temporarily Unavailable



Visionary Missionary Hedonist Power-Assertive Anger-Retaliatory Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy Serial Spree Killers and Other Emerging Categories

It only took them a month to get me to kill.

I had to evict them from their human bodies.

Evolving Categories

The FBI model classifying offenders as disorganized, organized, or mixed was only the beginning of an effort to classify serial killers. While the FBI categories are used for investigative purposes, there are many other ways of classifying serial killers for psychological or criminological study. These categories are often more valid and accurate in their definition, because they are based on already identified serial killers about whom much is known—unlike the FBI system, which is focused on unknown killers for investigative goals. The most prevalent typologies in current use for studying offenders are those defined by criminologists Ronald Holmes, Stephan Holmes, and James De Burger, who based their classification system on motive, as opposed to the FBI’s basis in method. Holmes, Holmes, and De Burger grouped serial killers into four distinct types with several subgroups, based on the motive or type of gratification the serial killer derived from his crime:

  1. Visionary: These serial killers kill at the command of hallucinated external or internal voices or visions that they experience. Such individuals are almost always suffering from psychoses or other mental illness.
  2. Mission-oriented: Some serial killers come to believe that it is their mission to rid the community of certain types of people: children, prostitutes, old people, or members of a specific race.
  3. Hedonistic: These include killers who murder for financial gain ( comfort killers), those who gain pleasure from mutilating or having sex with corpses, drinking their blood, or cannibalizing them (lust killers), and those who enjoy the actual act of killing (thrill killers). For the first two subtypes, the comfort and lust killers, murder is only a means to an end and in itself is less important than the acts accompanying or following the killing; for the third subtype, the thrill killer, the desire to kill is central to the motive.
  4. Power/control-oriented: These are perhaps the most common of all serial killers, for whom the fundamental pleasure of their crime lies in the power and control they exert over their victims. They enjoy torturing their prey and find it sexually arousing, and murder is often the most satisfying and final expression of their power and control over their victim.98

We are going to look at these categories here in greater detail and see how they are manifested in actual cases.


These types of serial killers commit incomprehensible murders, leaving behind chaotic crime scenes. They often leave behind an abundance of physical evidence, but their victims frequently seem to fit no comprehensible pattern. That is because the killer’s mind is completely disconnected from reality: Voices and visions drive the offender to kill for reasons secreted in the recesses of his madness. Sometimes these types of offenders are completely nonfunctional in society—living alone and having no contact with other people. In other cases, the offenders have episodic breaks with reality during which they kill but otherwise appear harmless or at worst, eccentric, to those around them. Most visionary serial killers genuinely suffer from mental illness and some are schizophrenic or psychotic (as opposed to psychopathic, which is a behavioral disorder, see Chapter 5). While almost all serial killers have a disturbed or difficult childhood to some degree, visionary killers might grow up in completely normal, supportive family settings. Because mental illness such as schizophrenia often first manifests itself in late adolescence or early adulthood, visionary killers are often young. While visionary killers do little to disguise their identity and leave behind evidence, they are difficult to apprehend because there is no clear method or motive to their crimes. They operate on an agenda entirely synched to the incomprehensible madness within them.

While most serial killers have an ideal victim in mind and kill for sexual purposes, the visionary killer selects his victims at random in a logic often indiscernible to an investigator. Visionary killers often kill close to home; because of their disturbed state of mind, they are unlikely to venture very far. Visionary killers almost exclusively fall into the FBI disorganized category because of the mental disorder driving their offenses.

Some serial killers have been known to pose as visionary killers, claiming to hear voices or have multiple personalities, in an attempt to secure a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

 Herbert William Mullin—“The Die Song”

Herbert Mullin was born in 1949 in Santa Cruz, California, and by most accounts grew up in a stable and nurturing, but perhaps too strict, Roman Catholic household. In high school he was smallish—five foot seven, weighing in at 120 pounds, but he was popular with both boys and girls. He played offensive guard on the school football team, was unfailingly polite and well mannered, got excellent grades, and was voted “most likely to succeed” by fellow students. The first indication of some kind of instability in Mullin cropped up at age sixteen, when a friend of his was killed in a road accident. Mullin set up a shrine for him in his bedroom and began to obsess that he might be a homosexual. When he turned seventeen Mullin began to hear distant voices—a classic symptom of paranoid schizophrenia, a disease that often begins to make its first appearance at this age.

Between ages eighteen and twenty-four, Mullin’s life was punctuated by a series of hospitalizations in psychiatric facilities, relieved by periods of normalcy. He enrolled in Cabrillo College and earned an associate degree in arts, got an award in mechanical drawing, and designed the Santa Cruz tourist information booth, which stood in front of the Holiday Inn.

In 1968 he enrolled in San Jose State University, but his mental health began to decline rapidly. He was picked up several times by the sheriff’s department, babbling to himself and wandering aimlessly. Making matters worse, Mullin became a user of marijuana and LSD, a potent hallucinogenic drug that mimics the symptoms of schizophrenia in healthy subjects. One can only imagine what it does in a user who already has schizophrenia—and no, it does not mimic sanity.

In 1969 on a visit to his sister, he began to mimic everything her husband did, and at other times he sat motionless, staring at them, refusing to say anything. The next morning his sister drove him to a mental health hospital and he checked himself in voluntarily. But as Mullin did not display any inclination to hurt himself or others, he was released in a week. To his credit, Mullin also ceased to consume drugs as his condition worsened.

He experimented with the hippie lifestyle for a period, adopting Eastern religions, growing his hair long, and wearing beads. Then he cut his hair short and put on a suit and tie. He approached strange women on the street, proposing marriage. Rejected, he traveled to San Francisco’s gay neighborhood and propositioned men. He traveled to Hawaii and ended up in a mental hospital there. Back in California he was hospitalized several more times. He stood up in a Catholic church during a service and shouted out that it was not really Christian, but then shortly afterward he enrolled in studies for the Catholic priesthood.

He appeared at a boxing gym in San Francisco wearing a sombrero and carrying a Bible and proved himself to be a ferocious boxer. He was even considered to be a potential lightweight professional contender but suddenly dropped out. In Santa Cruz Mullin developed a crush on a local deputy sheriff and kept turning up at his office calling him “sweetheart.” He continued doing this long after he had begun his series of murders.

A year after he had registered as a conscientious objector, Mullin joined the Marines with the help of his father, a former Marine colonel. He successfully completed basic training, but his mental condition made itself visible in the end, and he was quickly discharged. Who knows what the effect of Marine Corps combat drills had on the young schizophrenic, but he came to believe that American lives being sacrificed in the Vietnam War were saving California from the predicted great earthquake.*

In hindsight one must appreciate both the freewheeling and apocalyptic times that Mullin was living through in the late 1960s and early 1970s—and the role California played at their epicenter. With his bizarre behavior, Mullin must have been invisible in the do-your-own-thing rainbow of the Haight-Ashbury hippie culture that swept out of California and engulfed not only the nation but the rest of the Western world. But by the early 1970s it turned bad. Charlie Manson had long before abandoned Haight-Ashbury as a trip gone bad and unleashed his followers to commit a series of horrific murders in Los Angeles before retreating to the remote Death Valley desert. What was celebrated in the green fields of Woodstock was put to death on the black asphalt of Altamont, where during a Rolling Stones performance of “Sympathy for the Devil,” Hell’s Angels bikers beat a spectator to death in front of center stage.

In the late summer of 1972 as America stood by to reelect Richard Nixon, Mullin journeyed one more time to San Francisco and attempted to join a hippie art collective on Geary Street. He was just too bizarre for them and was sent packing by management. Michael Roberts, one of the artist residents there who had protested Mullin’s expulsion, recalled, “He left the human race that day. It was the final rejection.”

In September 1972, Mullin returned to his parents’ home in Santa Cruz. He spent that month, according to witnesses, deeply contemplating the Bible. Mullin later stated that he discovered that killing was a biblical tradition, and that his father, the ex-Marine, had reinforced that in him. According to Mullin, his father used to urge, almost force him to go deer hunting to develop his masculinity. Mullin began to hear the disembodied voices of his parents ordering him to sacrifice lives to stave off the natural disaster threatening California’s coast. Mullin stated, “It only took them a month to get me to kill.”

On October 13, 1972, Mullin was driving down a highway when he noticed Lawrence White, a fifty-five-year-old vagrant, walking along the roadside. Mullin stopped his vehicle ahead of him, and when White approached him, Mullin killed him with blows to the head with a baseball bat. He then dragged White’s body into the bush and left it there.

Soon Mullin began to hear his father’s voice explaining that pollution was coming from inside people’s bodies. He had just been reading accounts of Michaelangelo’s dissections in Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy when on October 24 he picked up college student Mary Guilfoyle, who was hitchhiking. When she climbed into his vehicle, he plunged a knife into her chest, killing her. He then dragged her body out into the woods and cut open her abdomen, taking out her organs and inspecting them for traces of pollution. So he could better inspect the intestines, he strung them across the branches of a tree. Her body would not be found for months.

Even today, with all the advances in profiling, it is hard to imagine investigators linking these two seemingly different crimes to the same perpetrator or understanding the motives behind the mutilation of Mary Guilfoyle. Most likely they were attributed to Jack-the-Ripper-type sexual lust, but in fact, these were not sexual fantasies driving Mullin—they were not really even fantasies, but hallucinations.

Still deeply linked to his Catholic faith, Mullin went in the afternoon of November 2 to St. Mary’s Church in Los Gatos, a suburb of Santa Cruz, to seek help from a priest. Father Henri Tomie at random entered the confessional booth to listen to Mullin. Mullin began to hallucinate that Father Tomie was asking Mullin to kill him. Mullin recalls that he told the priest that his father had been telepathically ordering him to sacrifice people.

In Mullin’s recollection of the conversation, the priest asked him, “Herbert, do you read the Bible?”


“The commandments, where it says to honor thy father and mother?”


“Then you know how important it is to do as your father says.”


“I think it is so important that I want to volunteer to be your next sacrifice,” the priest said, according to Mullin.99

Mullin beat the priest, kicked him, and stabbed him six times in the chest and back, leaving him to die in the confessional booth.

On December 16, Mullin went to a Santa Cruz auto parts dealership that also sold handguns. He picked out a .22-caliber pistol and filled out the required gun purchase application form, giving his occupation as sketch artist and checking off truthfully “No” when asked if he had any felony convictions or narcotic addictions. (Both marijuana and LSD are not considered physically addictive, and he was off them anyway.) A week later he returned for the weapon, paying $22.99 for it.

After he became seriously mentally ill, Mullin ceased to use drugs. Now he became convinced that it was precisely those drugs that were the cause of his condition. On January 25, 1973, taking his handgun with him, Mullin went to find his former high school football teammate James Gianera, who had first shared a marijuana joint with him. Mistakenly, he arrived at a neighboring house instead. Kathy Francis was at home with her two children when Mullin knocked on her door. She knew Gianera and directed Mullin to his house. According to Mullin, she also told him that she and her children wanted to be sacrificed. She was found by police on the kitchen floor stabbed in the chest and shot through the head. Her two sons were found in their bunk bed, stabbed through the back and also shot in the head. The house appeared undisturbed.

Mullin then wandered over to James Gianera’s house. After a brief conversation about old times and drug consumption, Mullin shot James dead. Gianera’s wife, Joan, who was taking a shower upstairs, was shot dead as she tried to escape. Again the house was not disturbed. Police identified the same weapon in all five murders. They also determined that the two families were jointly involved in a small-time marijuana-dealing business, and classified their deaths as drug-business related.

Mullin was a disorganized visionary serial killer. His eight killings so far were mission-driven but entirely unplanned and haphazard. No connection would appear between the beating death of the vagrant, the mutilation of the college girl, the stabbing of the priest, and the multiple shootings of the five recent victims. Each crime appeared different not only in the method but also in the apparent motive. This kind of hidden logic is what makes disorganized serial killers not only difficult to apprehend, but sometimes even difficult to notice.

On February 10, 1973, Mullin came upon four teenagers camping in Cowell State Park, about two miles away from his parents’ house. He shot all four dead, because, as he later explained, he believed they were disturbing the environment. Their bodies would not be found until a week after Mullin was already in custody.

On February 11, hunters finally discovered the remains of Mullin’s second victim, her intestines hanging in the tree branches. On February 13, Mullin set out in his station wagon. Later there would be some speculation that Mullin was obsessed with the number thirteen, and indeed his first murder was committed on November 13, and his thirteenth victim would die on February 13.

Seventy-three-year-old Fred Perez had fought as a U.S. Marine in the Boxer Rebellion in China, and during the 1920s he had been a champion middleweight fighter in California. He had four children, seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. Around 8:00 A.M. he was gardening in his front yard when Mullin stopped his car about 150 feet away. Perez’s niece and a neighbor saw Mullin lean out from his window, brace a .22-caliber rifle, and squeeze off a single shot that hit Perez in the side of the chest. Mullin then calmly drove away as the neighbor phoned the police. The wound was so small that when a police officer arrived at the scene, he assumed that Perez was having a heart attack and assured him that he would be okay. But Perez died in his garden before paramedics could arrive.

With the description of the car on air, police quickly apprehended Mullin and seized both the rifle and the handgun still in his car. Mullin refused to cooperate with the police and at his arraignment he asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself. A week after his arrest, the bodies of the four teenagers were found and ballistics linked their deaths to Mullin.

It is debatable how disorganized a serial killer Mullin was. He defied the traditional definition in purchasing a weapon prior to his later homicides and bringing it with him to the scene where he committed his offenses. When arrested he steadfastly denied having committed the murders. Yet at the same time there is no evidence that Mullin planned his murders and stalked his victims. They were highly random, improvised acts of violence. Mullin would eventually be indicted for eleven murders. His lawyer, on the condition that Mullin not be charged, had to inform the police of the November murders of Lawrence White and Mary Guilfoyle. The police would not have linked them to Mullin otherwise.

Mullin was convinced that voices were directing him as the “savior of the world.” Mullin explained, “Satan gets into people and makes them do things they don’t want to do.” By killing people (causing “small disasters”), Mullin believed that he was going to prevent the great disastrous earthquake and tidal wave that threatened California. The transcript of Mullin’s police interrogation clearly shows the extent of his delusions:

MULLIN: We human beings, through the history of the world, have protected our continents from cataclysmic earthquakes by murder. In other words, a minor natural disaster avoids a major natural disaster.


QUESTION: But if murder is a natural disaster, then why should you be locked up for it, if it’s natural and has a good effect?


MULLIN: Your laws. You see, the thing is, people get together, say, in the White House. People like to sing the die song, you know, people like to sing the die song. If I am president of my class when I graduate from high school, I can tell two, possibly three young male homo sapiens to die. I can sing that song to them and they’ll have to kill themselves or be killed—an automobile accident, a knifing, a gunshot would. You ask me why this is? And I say, well, they have to do that in order to protect the ground from an earthquake, because all of the other people in the community had been dying all year long, and my class, we have to chip in so to speak to the darkness. We have to die also. And people would rather sing the die song than murder.


QUESTION: What is the die song?


MULLIN: Just that. I’m telling you to die. I’m telling you to kill yourself, or be killed so that my continent will not fall off into the ocean. See, it’s all based on reincarnation, this dies to protect my strata.

Although Mullin was obviously insane, a California jury felt he was fit to stand trial—he was convicted of ten homicides (having committed thirteen). It is believed, however, that the jury deliberately chose to ignore his insanity, fearing that if he were committed to a hospital he would later be released back into the community (not an unfounded fear at the time of the Mullin case). Mullin was sentenced to life in prison.


Missionary killers feel compelled to kill a certain type of victim whom they believe is worthy of death. Often the choice of victim is somehow influenced by the killer’s past experience or current beliefs that lead him to conclude that a certain type of person is “undesirable.” Prostitutes, homosexuals, homeless people, and members of a specific race are the most frequent candidates for missionary serial killers.

Missionary killers are highly organized, compulsively seeking out and stalking their victim type and killing them quickly. Usually no sexual offenses are associated with the crime, but there are exceptions, particularly in the murder of prostitutes. Missionary serial killers are often stable, gainfully employed, long-term residents of the geographical territory in which they kill. They are frequently intelligent and white-collar or professional workers. They usually refrain from posing or mutilating the corpse of their victim—the kill is the mission. The body is frequently found at the location of the murder, as the missionary killer has minimum contact with his victim because he is uncomfortable relating to the object of his hate in an attempt to lure the victim to another location.

Missionary serial killers sometimes team up into groups and can be arguably also classified as “cult serial killers” when they do.

 Joseph P. Franklin

A former Klansman, Joseph Franklin was convicted in 1980 of four homicides: the sniper shooting of two black men jogging with a white woman in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the shooting of a black-white couple in Madison, Wisconsin. He is believed to have committed up to fifteen murders in seven states between 1977 and 1980—in one double homicide of a mixed-race couple, he was released after being arrested because of a lack of evidence. His victims were either blacks or interracial couples. He apparently killed one woman he picked up hitchhiking when she told him she had dated a Jamaican. Franklin stated, “Race-mixing is a sin against God and nature . . . I feel it is my duty as a servant of God to protect white womanhood from injury or degradation.”

 “The Zebra Killers”

The Zebra Killers, who were named for the interracial nature of their crimes, consisted of five black offenders who murdered fifteen white men, women, and youths in 1973 and 1974 in San Francisco over a span of 170 days. They belonged to an inner cult within the Elijah Mohammad’s Nation of Islam movement called the “Death Angels.” It was never ascertained how high in the movement approval and complicity in the Death Angels went. Membership, or “wings,” in the Death Angels was open to anyone who killed (“stung”) at least nine white men, five white women, or four white children. Once a member committed the required number of homicides, the member’s photograph was posted on a bulletin board at Nation of Islam centers with a pair of wings drawn in extending from his back. In October 1973 there were apparently fifteen Death Angels in the California chapter of the Nation of Islam.100

The five new aspiring members of the cult patrolled in groups of two or three and killed their victims randomly at bus stops, in telephone booths, at a late-night laundry, or on the street. The men were “killing grafted snakes for Allah—blue-eyed devils.” Although they were supposed to only kill, they robbed or raped their victims on several occasions, which was against the rules of the cult. Most victims were shot dead, some were stabbed and hacked, and a few victims were kidnapped and tortured. While the earlier Death Angel murders were discreet, the new batch were blatant and committed with the same weapon, allowing the police to quickly link the murders together and alarming the city of San Francisco.

One of the aspiring Angels allegedly flew to Chicago, where the Nation of Islam was headquartered, and demanded an early promotion into the Death Angels. Upon being rebuffed he intensified the killing spree. When a senior, yet unidentified member of the movement came to California and attempted to defuse the killings by agreeing to promote the aspirants into the Angels without their fully qualifying in the number of kills, it became his turn to be rebuffed. He was told by one of them that they would not be comfortable with other Death Angels, not having themselves equaled in the number of kills. They continued in the killing campaign.

In May 1974, one of the five aspiring Angels fell out with the group and turned state’s evidence, implicating a number of fellow cult members. Only four men—Jesse Cook, Larry Greene, Manuel Moore, and J. C. Simon—were indicted, and it turned out that two of them had no criminal record previously. After what was at that time California’s longest trial, running more than a year, the four were sentenced to life in prison. It is believed that the Death Angels in California might have murdered as many as 135 men, 75 women, and 60 children, all of them white, but there was not sufficient evidence to charge the remaining fifteen to twenty people implicated in the cult.101

 Ted Kaczynski—Harvard, the “Unabomber,” and His Mission

Ted Kaczynski, who mailed and placed bombs targeting high-technology researchers and executives, supposedly believed that technology had advanced to a state where it posed a threat to mankind. A brilliant Ph.D. in mathematics, Kaczynski withdrew from society to a primitive cabin in Montana, from which he made his bomb-running forays into civilization for twenty years—during which he seriously injured several victims and killed three. Known only as the Unabomber, he persuaded several media outlets to publish his manifesto protesting against society’s becoming too dominated by high technology and global corporate power interests. He was identified after his family recognized the phraseology in the manifesto and alerted the FBI.

There was some controversy over the effectiveness of the FBI profiling of Kaczynski (see Chapter 9). Moreover, there are some disturbing questions over Ted Kaczynski and the nature and motive of his crimes. A brilliant mathematician with a Harvard undergraduate degree and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and a one-time assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Kaczynski is probably the most educated serial killer on record. When identified and captured, he showed no signs of organic mental illness. What made this brilliant man cross the line to kill?

Apprehended and tried by federal authorities, Kaczynski was portrayed as an unkempt hermit nutcase who suddenly “cracked” after teaching for two years at Berkeley and retreated into the wilderness to a Montana cabin, from which he emerged only to kill. Because Kaczynski’s beliefs, and even his homicidal actions, garnered sympathy in some segments of society, it was important to discredit him and his mission as the actions of a crackpot.

The media coverage of Kaczynski’s trial in Sacramento, from where this portrayal emerged, was highly controlled by the very corporate powers he so hated. Authority for press passes to the trial was delegated to a consortium of major news organizations, led by the Associated Press.102 The consortium established the Unabom Trial Media Group, which issued press passes only to “bona fide” journalists. Furthermore, all courtroom passes were reserved exclusively for major media outlets, with only two passes available on a daily lottery basis to independent or small media organizations. The rest of the journalists could use a room where audio was pumped in on speakers from the courtroom—but only if they paid a $5,000 initiation fee and took out liability insurance costing another $1,500.103 Very few independent journalists or writers could afford such a privilege.

The truth is slightly different. Kaczynski was hardly a hermit, and maintained friendly relationships with some of his neighbors and people in town. And while his cabin was primitive, it was hardly remote by Montana standards. Author Alston Chase, who actually took the trouble to go to the site of Kaczynski’s cabin, writes:

Ted’s place, far from being a “wilderness,” bordered on suburban. Standing outside his door, one could hear traffic on the Stemple Pass Road . . . Just a few hundred feet down the creek from Kaczynski stood a row of vacation cabins . . . And quite a few townsfolk liked Kaczynski.104

There was no “crack-up” at Berkeley—Kaczynski took the position there with the specific objective of financing a rural cabin and a planned retreat from society. Kaczynski’s lifestyle might have been kooky compared to the New York–L.A. routine led by the journalists who reported on him. But deeper down, Kaczynski was no nuttier than the eminent American thinker Henry David Thoreau, who in 1845 went to live in a primitive cabin on Walden Pond, “not to walk in procession with pomp and parade, in a conspicuous place, but to walk even with the Builder of the universe, if I may,—not to live in this restless, nervous, bustling, trivial Nineteenth Century, but stand or sit thoughtfully while it goes by.”105 Kaczynski of course, did not sit thoughtfully. He killed coldly, wearing disguises as he planted lethal devices and cleverly left misleading evidence by wearing different-sized shoes attached like snowshoes below his regular ones.

Now that Kaczynski is locked away in a federal facility, all sorts of weird background is coming out about him. Recently it was discovered that Kaczynski was a survivor of a series of brutal personality-breaking psychological experiments in 1959, conducted at Harvard by Henry A. Murray, a towering figure in the world of intelligence agency personality analysis, brainwashing, and interrogation techniques. During World War II, Murray worked for the OSS, the precursor of the CIA, designing tests intended to identify the best recruits for clandestine work. Murray was particularly interested in how well recruits could withstand interrogation designed to break down their personalities.

In the 1950s, Murray served as an advisor to the U.S. Army on various drug tests on human subjects.106 This was around the time that the CIA and the Department of Defense were experimenting with LSD. Harvard researcher Timothy Leary, the future civilian guru of LSD, recalled in his autobiography that Murray was “the wizard of personality assessment who, as OSS chief psychologist, had monitored military experiments on brainwashing and sodium amytal interrogation. Murray expressed a great interest in our drug-research project and offered his support.”107

The sixty-six-year-old Henry Murray himself was experimenting with taking LSD when he subjected the brilliant but odd and lonely seventeen-year-old Harvard undergraduate student Ted Kaczynski to personality formation experiments. Students were asked to describe everything they fundamentally believed in, and then suddenly subjected to surprise attacks on their beliefs by hired lawyers. Murray described these as experiments in “stressful interpersonal disputations” or “dyadic interaction of alienated subjects.”108

There is no documented proof that Murray was at the time working for any of the CIA programs focused on the use of LSD as a method for programming “Manchurian candidate” assassins, interrogating prisoners, and disabling chosen target victims. We know, however, that under code names MK-ULTRA and Project Artichoke, such programs existed. University psychiatric and psychology professors in the United States and Canada received grants from the CIA to conduct these experiments, and one such program at McGill University in Montreal became the subject of extensive lawsuits.

Whether Murray’s experiments involving Kaczynski were part of the CIA’s mind-control research programs is unknown, but considering Murray’s history as a veteran of military and intelligence personality and interrogation research programs, it is likely that they were. Between 1960 and 1966 the CIA funneled $456,000 to thirteen Harvard programs and unnamed professors in the departments of psychology, philosophy, and social relations.109

After Alston Chase wrote an article in June 2000 in The Atlantic about Kaczynski’s participation in these experiments, Harvard quickly sealed the test records documenting what Kaczynski went through. Some of the other participants, however, recall the experiments as being devastating of their belief systems and personalities, although none of them became serial killers.

Perhaps most ironic is that Murray’s “dyadic interaction of alienated subjects” became the foundation for the therapeutic programs during the 1970s and 1980s aimed at “curing” serial killers and other types of psychopathic offenders in criminal psychiatric facilities. By the end of the 1980s this type of therapy was under severe criticism, as it appeared to do more damage than good.110

We know from the journals that Kaczynski kept, and which were entered into evidence during the trial, that he had expressed anger and desire to kill years before he planted his first bomb.

My motive for doing what I am going to do is simply personal revenge. I do not expect to accomplish anything by it. Of course, if my crime (and my reason for committing it) gets any public attention, it may help to stimulate public interest in the technology questions and thereby improve the changes for stopping technology before it is too late; but on the other hand most people will probably be repelled by my crime . . . I certainly don’t claim to be an altruist or to be acting for the “good” (whatever that is) of the human race. I act merely from a desire for revenge. Of course, I would like to get revenge on the whole scientific and bureaucratic establishment, not to mention communists and others who threaten freedom, but, that being impossible, I have to content myself with just a little revenge.

After he started planting his bombs seven years later, he wrote again:

I emphasize that my motivation is personal revenge. I don’t pretend to any kind of philosophical or moralistic justification. The concept of morality is simply one of the psychological tools by which society controls people’s behavior. My ambition is to kill a scientist, big businessman, government official, or the like. I would also like to kill a Communist.

In the end, we see that Kaczynski was actually a nutter, but not the one that the press depicted him as. Somewhere inside him, beneath that Harvard-educated 170 IQ—or perhaps, as Alston Chase argues, because of it—lurked a homicidal psychopath. Typically, and especially of missionary-type serial killers, Kaczynski felt that he was somehow special and “entitled.”

One thing we will see later in this book is that serial killers are frequently isolated and lonely children. Whether it is because of a domineering mother, a physical disability, a behavioral disorder, a mental handicap, or an overabundance of intelligence, serial killers as children and teens are frequently isolated from their siblings and playmates and increasingly live in a fantasy world. It is of course, a “chicken-or-egg” paradox—do children grow up to become serial killers because they are isolated, or are they isolated because there is something deadly wrong with their behavior in the first place? The problem is that millions of people have not killed, but have the same or worse childhood symptoms that serial killers frequently have: bedwetting, fire starting, animal cruelty, domineering mothers, broken families, head injuries, and isolation from peers. So while these things are often present in the childhoods of serial killers, they alone are not the solution to the puzzle—there is still an unknown factor sought by criminal psychologists to explain the existence of serial killers.

As we will also see in later chapters, serial killers often need some kind of trigger to set them off on the inevitable path to murder. Whether the psychological experiments in 1959 unleashed Kaczynski’s rage to homicidal action by breaking down the remnants of his personality is not an easy question to answer. Sealed in Harvard’s archives are the details of Kaczynski’s time in the “dyadic interaction of alienated subjects” that Professor Murray was conducting. Obviously, Murray was not “deconstructing” the personalities of psychopaths at Harvard—he was experimenting on the personalities of ambitious, highly intelligent scholars, attacking their fundamental beliefs and personality traits. Kaczynski was definitely isolated from his childhood peers by both his intelligence and his parents’ ambitious management of his intellectual development. Whatever rage he might have developed, his intelligence and acceptance of basic ethics might have kept it in check, until Murray’s “dyad” got hold of him at the weakest and loneliest point in his life—away from home for the first time as a college undergraduate. That could be the elusive trigger in Kaczynski’s murderous career—a trigger that, with his intelligence and sense of organization, he did not act on impetuously, but carefully and smartly, evading apprehension for nearly two decades.


Hedonist comfort killers are perhaps the oldest recognized and simplest type of serial killer. They kill for profit and gain—for comfort. They were highly prevalent in previous centuries in times of anarchic disorder or in frontier territories where the institutions of justice were weak and the value of life was low. Pirates, bandits, urban slum landlords, baby-farm matrons, black widow husband poisoners, bluebeard wife murderers, landlady killers, innkeeper murderers, medical cadaver harvesters—all these categories dominate the descriptions of nonaristocratic serial killers from the past. These types of crimes continue to occur in rural areas or in economically depressed urban communities, where victims are often transients who are not missed. Organized-crime contract killings likewise unfold in a type of underworld anarchy and the victims, often other criminals, are not missed or valued.

Victims are frequently known to the killer. The killer is the victim’s husband or wife, business partner, friend, or employer-employee or is in some kind of professional relationship with the victim. Victims are very carefully chosen for the profit their death will yield, and their murders are planned and their bodies carefully disposed of. The types of killers are divided between geocentric killers who lure victims to their place of residence or business and nomadic killers who seek out the victim. Victims are often killed quickly, and any mutilation of the corpse has to do with disposal as opposed to psychopathology. Female serial killers are frequently this type of killer. In some cases, complete strangers who randomly enter the offender’s “kill zone” become victims.

 Dr. Marcel Petiot

Hauntingly similar to the late-nineteenth-century profit-motivated murders by Herman Mudgett in Chicago, who killed victims in his custom-designed “murder hotel” during the World’s Fair, were the crimes in 1941–1944 of Dr. Marcel Petiot in Paris. Petiot preyed on refugees, often Jews attempting to flee France during the war, claiming that for a price he could assist them in escaping German-occupied France. They came to his home, in which Petiot had built a soundproof room with a peephole. Petiot “inoculated” his victims with poison and then guided them to the soundproof room. He watched them die through the peephole, and afterward he buried their bodies in the basement or burned them in a furnace. The money the victims paid Petiot for his “help” was supplemented by their belongings, which he stole after their deaths. After his arrest he was found with 1,500 articles of clothing and forty-seven suitcases belonging to some of his victims. Nobody noticed the people disappearing, as it was thought that they had either escaped Paris or had been arrested and deported by the Germans.

In March 1944, when neighbors complained of rank black smoke emerging from Petiot’s chimney, the fire department checked Petiot’s apartment and stumbled upon the remains of forty-seven bodies in his house. Petiot cleverly evaded arrest by claiming that the bodies were German soldiers or collaborators whom he was disposing of at the orders of the Resistance. In the wartime confusion Petiot was allowed to go free, but subsequent investigations pieced together the identities of the victims, and in November 1944 he was arrested. He was convicted of twenty-seven homicides committed between 1941 and 1944, but was believed to have committed a total of sixty-three. He was guillotined on May 26, 1946.


Hedonist lust killers are probably the scariest and most monstrous of all types of serial killers. Not all of them want to necessarily hurt or kill you—they simply want to wear your skin or eat your liver or have sex with your severed head. It’s just that your life gets in the way. . . . Edmund Kemper, who murdered ten victims and had sex with their corpses and various mutilated body parts, explained that the actual killing of his victims had little to do with his fantasies. “I’m sorry to sound so cold about this,” he said, “but what I needed to have was a particular experience with a person, and to possess them in the way I wanted to: I had to evict them from their human bodies.” (See Chapter 5 for a case study of Kemper’s offenses.)

Lust killers often have an ideal victim type in mind with fetishistic elements—type of footwear or clothing worn, color or style of hair, body shape, a “cheerleader type” or a “slutty type,” and so on.

Lust killers often need intimate skin-to-skin contact in their killing, and use a knife or strangulation to murder. Necrophilia is a very frequent aspect of lust killer homicides. They are mostly highly organized, having gone through years of the process of transforming and rehearsing their often bizarre fantasies into reality. Lust killers are often aware that their victim choice is visible to police and may choose to travel to various jurisdictions in both their hunt for and disposal of victims. Because sometimes these killers consume certain body parts or focus on them, dismembered victims might be spread over different locations. The lust killer usually chooses different dumping grounds for each victim (unlike the power/control killer, who might like to keep his victims’ corpses together at a choice location).

 Jerry Brudos—The Fatal Shoe Fetishist

Brudos is a minor serial killer whose story, nonetheless, demonstrates the evolution of a hedonistic sexual serial killer and is worth summarizing in some detail here.*

In 1969, young women were vanishing in Oregon and police were very concerned. On March 27, nineteen-year-old Karen Sprinker went missing in Salem. She was home visiting from college and was to meet her mother for lunch at a downtown shopping center. Her mother waited for an hour, but Karen never arrived. Police found her car parked in the indoor garage of the department store where her mother was waiting. There were no signs of any violence at the vehicle.

The police surmised that Sprinker was kidnapped in broad daylight as she was walking from her car to the store downstairs to meet her mother. When the police subsequently surveyed shoppers in the center who might have been there when Sprinker went missing, they were told of a huge strange woman lurking around the garage—except that the woman, witnesses thought, was really a man dressed in female attire.

Next, twenty-two-year-old Linda Salee, a secretary at a moving company, went missing in Portland. She had been last seen at a shopping mall purchasing a birthday present for her boyfriend after work. But she never showed up to meet him later that evening.

When Salee failed to appear at work the next day and was reported missing, the police took the report very seriously and a search was made. Her car was found parked and locked at the mall with no signs of violence. Salee was not the first girl to disappear under similar circumstances. In the previous months, two other women had vanished.

Linda Salee was found three weeks later in a river about fifteen miles south of Corvallis, Oregon. A fisherman discovered her body bobbing in the river, firmly wedged against the current. The police had a difficult time extracting her corpse from the river because it was weighed down with a heavy automobile transmission box. Her body had been attached to the transmission with nylon cord and copper wire. The cord was tied off with a distinctive knot, while the copper wire was twisted in a manner in which electricians trim electrical lines. Cause of death was determined to be strangulation with a cord. One thing puzzled the medical examiner: There were two strange needle marks, one on each side of Salee’s rib cage. The punctures were circled by small burns, which evidently had occurred after death.

Several days later, about twenty yards from where Linda Salee’s body was found, police divers located the body of Karen Sprinker. Her body was lashed to a six-cylinder engine head, with the same type of cord and copper wire, knotted in the same electrician’s manner. Her autopsy revealed that she too had been strangled with some kind of strap. She was clothed in the green skirt and sweater that her mother had reported her wearing the day she disappeared. She was also wearing the same cotton panties, but was clad in a bustier-type waist-long black bra many sizes too big for her. When the medical examiner removed the bra he discovered that it was stuffed with brown paper toweling. Karen Sprinker’s breasts had been cut off and the toweling inserted to create the illusion of a big bosom. Clearly the two bodies were the work of the same killer.

Although the river yielded no further bodies, police in Oregon had on their hands two other cases of mysterious disappearances of young women. On January 26, 1968, in Portland, nineteen-year-old Linda Slawson went missing. She was selling encyclopedias door-to-door but when she did not show up at the sales office the next few days, nobody paid much attention. Encyclopedia sales were a very difficult and discouraging line of work—salespeople came and went all the time. Her family lived in Minnesota, so it took some time before she was reported missing. When the police checked with the encyclopedia company where she was making sales calls, the best they could do was give the police a neighborhood in Portland, but no specific addresses. Slawson had simply vanished, nobody sure exactly where and when.

Then on November 26, 1968, twenty-three-year-old Jan Whitney went missing while driving home for the Thanksgiving holidays from her college. Her car was found just outside Albany, Oregon, locked and parked at a highway rest area. There was a minor mechanical breakdown in the engine that would have prevented the car from being driven. Somebody had obviously offered Jan Whitney a ride.

With the recovery of two victims, both obviously murdered by the same killer, the police now began in earnest to search for a suspect. They knew he was probably a strong large male because he was able to carry bodies weighed down by engine parts. By the way he trimmed the wire binding the victims, police guessed that he might be an electrician. They had only one very tenuous lead. On April 22, in Salem, a day before Linda Salee disappeared while shopping for her boyfriend’s gift, a fifteen-year-old girl reported that a huge man with sandy hair and freckles had attempted to force her into his vehicle—a small sports car. Other than that, the police had no further clues.

Police decided to work their way back to Karen Sprinker’s college residence in Corvallis—perhaps her killer knew her from there. Investigators began a massive interview of all of Sprinker’s fellow students—whom did she go out on dates with? Did she get any strange phone calls at the dormitory where she lived? The police then expanded their questioning to the contacts of other girls on the campus: Whom were they seeing? Had any of them been taken to strange places? Did they have contact with any weird individuals or receive unusual phone calls?

Several girls told the police that they were called by their first name to the communal phone at the dormitory. The caller was a man who said that he got their name from a friend of theirs, without ever mentioning the name of the friend. He said he had been a prisoner of war in Vietnam for three years and that he possessed clairvoyant powers. Would they like to meet him for a Coke? Most of the girls had turned him down and could not remember what name he gave on the phone. Obviously, he was simply calling and asking for a female first name on the chance that somebody with that name was living at the dormitory.

One girl, however, had agreed to see the man. She said she felt sorry for the poor ex-soldier and agreed to meet with him. They sat and talked in the dormitory lounge and then drove out in his car for a Coke. They spent a lot of time talking about the two girls found in the river, but she did not find that unusual—everybody was talking about it on the campus. He drove an old, dirty, beat-up station wagon with children’s clothes in it—she thought he was married. He said only one strange thing to her: “How did you know I would bring you back home and not take you to the river and strangle you?”

The girl described him as a large man, more than six feet tall and heavy—sort of tubby. His hair was thinning and was a blondish-red, sandy color. He had a pale complexion and lots of freckles. The description matched that given by the fifteen-year-old kidnap attempt victim. The police told the college girl that if the man called again, she should agree to meet him at the dormitory and call them immediately.

On May 25, the man called. When police arrived, a large, tubby man was waiting for the girl downstairs in the lobby. He had committed no crime for which the police could arrest him, but they did question him there in the lobby before sending him on his way. He told them that he lived in Salem and that he was in Corvallis to mow a friend’s lawn. He was an electrician by trade and he had a wife and two kids, he told the investigators. He appeared slightly embarrassed but otherwise was calm and cooperative.

Checking into the man’s recent movements, police determined that in January 1968, he had lived in the same neighborhood in Portland where Linda Slawson was selling encyclopedias. In August he moved to Salem and was working a location on the same section of highway where Jan Whitney vanished. Currently he worked only six miles from the point in the river where the bodies were found, and he now lived just blocks away from the downtown shopping center where Karen Sprinker disappeared. He had a juvenile record for sex offenses. And he was an electrician. . . . There were just too many coincidences. And that is how Jerry Brudos came to the attention of the police.

Jerome Henry Brudos was born in Webster, South Dakota, on January 31, 1939. He was the younger of two brothers and apparently was unwanted by his mother, Eileen, who was hoping for a daughter as a second child. The father was a small, short-tempered man, but not abusive. They were a poor family and lived mostly on farms while the father held casual jobs in town.

The mother was extremely dominating and highly critical of Jerry. While her other son, Larry, could do no wrong, she constantly denigrated Jerry. Both the father and the older brother were aware of her dislike for her younger child, but both were equally intimidated by Eileen Brudos.

Little Jerry roamed around freely and liked to play in a junkyard near their home. One day when he was five years old he found a pair of women’s shiny black patent leather high-heeled shoes; one of them still had a rhinestone-studded clasp. Jerry was both pleased and fascinated by the shoes—he had never seen a pair like that; his mother always wore flats. The little boy brought them home with him, slipped them on, and showed his mother. Her reaction was completely unexpected: She shrieked with outrage, telling the boy he was wicked and ordering him to take the shoes back to the dump.

Five-year-old Jerry Brudos could not understand what he had done wrong—the shoes came from a dump, and nobody wanted them. Yet by his mother’s reaction, he saw that he was committing some sort of deeply forbidden act. Instead of throwing the shoes out, Jerry hid them. When his mother found them, she made a show of burning them and punishing Jerry harshly. A fetish was born.

The bonding between mother and child had already been disturbed by Eileen’s distaste for Jerry. The boy attached himself to a kindly woman in the neighborhood and often fantasized that she was his real mother. The woman had diabetes and was very sick, and before long could no longer receive visits from Jerry. At the same time, Jerry also had a close friendship with a girl his own age who died from tuberculosis. He was devastated by the death of his girlfriend and grieved for a long time. These three events all occurred when Jerry was five years old, and for some inexplicable reason they became interconnected in his mind—he would not be able to speak of one without the others.

When Jerry was in the first grade, he stole his teacher’s high-heeled shoes from her desk. Before he could take them home, he was caught and humiliated. On another occasion, a couple with a teenage daughter was visiting the Brudos home. The daughter did not feel too well. She laid down on Jerry’s bed and fell asleep, still wearing her high-heeled shoes. Jerry recalls that he was transfixed and sexually aroused by the sight of the shoes and attempted to pry them off the sleeping girl. She awoke and told Jerry to get out of the room.

At school Jerry was a dull and sickly child. He failed the second grade and was often sick with sore throats and migraine headaches that made him vomit. He had two leg operations to correct circulation in his legs and had fungal infections in his toes and fingers. While his brother Larry passed school with A’s, Jerry was considered a dull child, despite the fact that his IQ was tested at normal or above.

Sex was never discussed in the Brudos home, and Jerry never witnessed any signs of affection between his parents. Growing up on the farm, Jerry recalls that he saw farm animals having intercourse, but he never associated or linked the erotic feelings he had for shoes with human sexuality. For him, his obsession with shoes was something secret and forbidden—and highly pleasurable.

The family moved around a lot, and for a period they lived next door to a house where there lived a lot of daughters. Jerry and one of their brothers would sneak into the girls’ rooms and fondle their clothing. Jerry discovered that touching female underclothes gave him the same arousing sensations that the shoes did. He loved the feel and the scent of female underwear, bras, and stockings. They were mysterious and forbidden totems arousing in him deep erotic feelings that he could not understand or explain.


Jerry Brudos, it must be remembered, was still a prepubescent boy. It is not unusual for some boys, at age five or even younger, to feel a sexual urge toward the female person, without understanding what it is that they are feeling or why. As the child does not know what to make of the pleasing yet frustrating urges he feels, they can sometimes be “short-circuited” to a number of other parallel, transient, and experimental emotions or fantasy scenarios. If these associations permanently fuse in the child’s subconscious, they can become fetishes or paraphilias such as masochism or sadism, necrophilia, bestiality, and so forth, that the child will carry with him into adulthood. Psychologists are unsure what causes such a fusing in some children, but in the case of Brudos, it might have been his mother’s hysterical reaction to his bringing home a pair of high-heeled shoes. Whatever sexual feeling he might have had at that moment could have become fused with guilt, rage, and unrequited desire for the rest of his life. The unfortunate events that followed in his childhood could have prevented him from ever growing out of it.

I do not want to make any kind of value judgment here on gender issues or alternative sexual lifestyles or on what is normal or abnormal, healthy or unhealthy. Let us say for the sake of argument that basic “normal” development will lead a child and adolescent to gradually discover increasing degrees of sexual pleasure from conventional affectionate contact with the opposite sex: touching, hugging, kissing, intercourse, and so on. If this development, however, is sidetracked or “short-circuited,” the individual seeks sexual pleasure by focusing on areas that were fused to his or her sexual memories in childhood. These become fetishes or paraphilias— narrowly focused sexual obsessions with either inanimate objects or particular types of partners or activities accompanying sex that often exclude the enjoyment of sex in any other form. It also appears to be predominantly a male problem. (See Chapter 7 for more on types of paraphilias.) Paraphilias are often accompanied by deep shame, so deep that sometimes the offender finds it less shameful to kill the victim than to admit to a para-philiac desire.

Sometimes these associations are minor and harmless and simply limit the individual in his relationship to the opposite sex—they become expressed as preferences for long-legged women, or for women with a certain body type, color of hair, scent, voice, and so forth.

Other times these paraphilias are more extensive. For example, a surprisingly common paraphilia among otherwise heterosexual males approaching middle age is a desire for sex with transsexuals: males who appear to be women with developed breasts but still have a penis. In many countries, entire neighborhoods are sometimes dedicated exclusively to prostitutes of this category. Why? Most likely the normal sexual urge of some male children toward the opposite sex is short-circuited by their ignorance of female anatomy—especially if they have no female siblings in the family or have not been exposed to full female frontal nudity in life or in pictorial form (to which many males growing up prior to the 1970s would not have been readily exposed). Instead, the male child fills in his imagination with what he knows best—his own body. He imagines the female form with the penis and fuses this imagery with his earliest and arguably most intense sexual sensations. What happens next, of course, remains a mystery. Upon discovering the true form of female genitals, some males react with aversion while others decide that what women really have is even better than what they imagined and go from there. Others, however, continue to associate an intense desire with their childhood memory of women with male genitals.

Paraphilias are powerful because they are so often linked to a primal sexual awakening in childhood that is frequently not even understood as “sex” but just as an overwhelming mysteriously pleasurable but unsatisfied urge. Some individuals spend the rest of their lives chasing the sexual dragon they experienced in childhood, never coming close to replicating the original sensation.

In some cases, these sexual associations are severe and debilitating and sometimes dangerous to others. They can be fused with sadistic or necrophiliac tendencies or with rage and humiliation, especially in individuals who were abused as children. Even harmless paraphilias can be given a dangerous edge under certain circumstances. Jerry Brudos had no opportunity for healthy social development, and his almost-comic shoe fetish became a motive for horrific murders. While in others, a fetish for shoes would be a harmless quirk, in Brudos it was streaked with feelings of hate, rejection, betrayal, anger, and frustration toward women. Brudos was a walking time bomb and as he staggered into puberty, it got only worse.


When Jerry’s older brother was sixteen, he had assembled a large collection of pinup pictures that he kept hidden in a box. One day, Jerry found Larry’s collection and was poring over it when his mother walked in on him. Again there was a hysterical scene and Jerry was severely punished. He never told his mother that the collection was Larry’s and not his.

At age sixteen, Jerry had his first nocturnal ejaculation—a wet dream. When his mother discovered the seminal stains on his sheets, he was again punished. Jerry was forced to wash his own sheets by hand and sleep without sheets while they dried on the line.

Jerry Brudos said that around this period he began to develop violent fantasies toward females. Brudos began to dig a tunnel in a hillside near the farm on which they lived. It was his fantasy to kidnap and imprison a girl there. Brudos recalls that he had no specific idea of intercourse or rape at that time—he was just excited by the idea of possessing a female.

During this period, Brudos began to slip into neighbors’ homes and steal shoes. He stole female underwear from clotheslines. He assembled a large collection of female garments, which he secreted from his mother. Years later, when police checked into the manufacture of the mysterious bra that one of Brudos’s victims was found wearing, they discovered that it had not been on the market for years. It is possible that it came from Brudos’ teenage-era collection.

Brudos stated in a psychiatric interview that touching female clothes gave him a “funny feeling” and he attempted to masturbate with it, but failed to ejaculate. He said he could only ejaculate in nocturnal emissions during his teenage years.

In 1955, Jerry Brudos was seventeen and had by now learned about intercourse. He became obsessed with seeing a naked girl, but Jerry was very shy and withdrawn around girls in school and the neighborhood. The situation was worsened by his hulking size and the onset of severe acne. Girls were repelled by the big, clumsy, ugly giant.

In August 1955, when the Brudos family was living in Salem, Oregon, Jerry crept into a neighbor’s house where an eighteen-year-old girl lived and stole her underwear. The next day he went to her and told her he was working undercover with the police and that he could get her lingerie back for her. The story seemed absurd to the girl, but Jerry was convincing. He told her that he lived in the neighborhood where many thefts were taking place and that nobody would suspect a seventeen-year-old kid as an undercover agent. He told the girl to come to his house when he knew nobody would be home. Since Jerry was a year younger than she was and he seemed like a chubby clown, the girl felt no fear of him. She decided she had nothing to lose and went to Jerry’s house.

When she knocked at his door, Brudos called to her from upstairs to come in. When she walked into his room, he jumped out of a closet wearing a mask and wielding a knife. He forced her to take her clothes off and then took photographs of her. After he finished he ran out of the room. The shaken girl was getting dressed as Jerry came running into the house without the mask. He told the girl that somebody had locked him in the barn and that he had just managed to break out. Did she see anyone, he asked. The girl knew it had been Brudos in the mask, and dashed from the house. As is often the case in sex crimes, the girl did not report the incident at the time.

In the meantime, Brudos developed the photographs and took great pleasure in handling the girl’s lingerie as he gazed at her pictures. His only regret was that he could remember little of the actual crime—he said he was too nervous and too busy taking pictures to actually savor the possession he had of the victim.

In April 1956, Brudos struck again. He lured a girl from his school into his car, drove her out to a remote location, and ordered her to take her clothes off. When she refused, he dragged her out of the car and began beating her with his fists, breaking her nose and causing extensive bruising. Fortunately a couple was driving by in their car and stopped when they saw the scene. Brudos at first attempted to convince them that the girl accidentally fell out of the car and was hysterical because she was scared. Then he told them that he was driving by and saw the girl being attacked by a “weirdo” and that he had fought him off. The couple took the now-docile Brudos and his victim to the police.

Police searched Brudos’s room and found his photographs and collection of female clothing. The girl in the pictures was contacted, and his assault from the previous August surfaced. Brudos was treated as a juvenile offender and sent for psychiatric evaluation to the Oregon State Hospital. The doctors found that Brudos was depressed and that his “judgment and insight are questionable.” But he was not grossly mentally ill or suffering from hallucinations, delusions, or illusions. According to the psychiatrist, Brudos showed no evidence of homicidal or suicidal tendencies and was suffering from “adjustment reaction of adolescence with sexual deviation, fetishism.”

Brudos lived at the psychiatric hospital but was allowed to attend high school during the day. He was talented in mathematics and science, but he performed below his abilities. Years later, when Brudos became infamous, nobody from high school could remember him—it was as if he did not exist. Like so many serial killers, he lived in isolation. After eight months of treatment, Brudos was released from hospital care and moved back to his unhappy home.

Brudos graduated from high school in 1958 and was said to have excelled in electronics. In March 1959, Brudos joined the army and was trained as a communications technician, but he received an early discharge in October 1959 after being found unfit for service. Brudos moved back in with his parents in their two-bedroom house in Corvallis, Oregon. While his brother, Larry, was away at college, Jerry was allowed to sleep in the second bedroom, but when Larry came home, he was relegated to a shed at the back of the house.

During this period, Jerry began to stalk and attack women whose shoes he was attracted to. He would choke them into unconsciousness and then run off with their shoes. He continued stealing women’s garments from clotheslines and dwelled in his dark shed surrounded by female attire.

Despite Jerry’s mental problems, he continued to excel in electronics. He became a licensed broadcast technician and was employed at a Corvallis radio station as their engineer. He was less of a loner than in high school and was friendly with several male employees at the station. He remained, however, terminally shy in the presence of women.

A young boy used to come to the radio station and hang around watching Jerry work and pestering him with questions. One day in 1962, Brudos jokingly told him to find him a girlfriend. To Jerry’s surprise, the boy took him to a house where he introduced him to a pretty dark-haired seventeen-year-old girl with big eyes. Her name was Susan* and she was almost as shy as Jerry.

Despite her shyness, Susan had dated teenage boys her own age, but the twenty-three-year-old Brudos seemed different to her. He courted her, pulling out her chair, buying her gifts, opening doors for her, and treating her as a lady. She was impressed by his job at the radio station and the attention and admiration he gave her.

They slipped into sex effortlessly, according to Susan, who says that there never seemed anything strange about Jerry’s sexual performance. He was tender and loving. She knew nothing of his fetishes or his past mental problems.

Before long, Susan was pregnant, and they decided to get married. The couple had already agreed that they would marry if she became pregnant. Brudos admitted that their relationship was not a big love affair, that Susan saw marriage as a way of escaping the restrictions of her strict parents, while he just needed somebody to sleep with. In 1962, the couple had a girl whom they named Karin.

Susan testified that nothing in Jerry’s behavior changed. He continued to be kind and tender with her, and bought her presents on holidays and anniversaries. They seemed to have a fairly lively sex life. Even before they were married, Susan posed nude while Jerry snapped photographs of her. He developed them himself in his own darkroom. Often he asked Susan to pose in black high-heeled shoes. Jerry asked her to do the housework nude except for her shoes, and the two of them romped around the house naked. The first three years of their marriage appeared to be happy ones. Jerry, it appeared, had finally found his fantasy girl.

Yet there were problems that nagged at the marriage. First, Jerry could not hold down a job. He kept changing jobs, and in their seven-year marriage the Brudoses lived in twenty different houses. Secondly, Susan felt that Jerry was very distant and removed from their daughter, Karin. He avoided all physical contact with his daughter, spent no time with her, and paid her little attention.

By the third year of their marriage, Susan was twenty and was beginning to turn away from Jerry’s requests. Wearing high heels hurt her back and she was too busy with their child and housework to be “dressing up” for Jerry. The sex was becoming monotonous and their daughter was getting too old, Susan felt, for them to be running around the house naked. Once again, Jerry Brudos began to feel rejected.

Susan says that Jerry became “depressed” and withdrawn when she did something to displease him, but she never witnessed him being angry or violent. Unknown to Susan, during these “depressions” Jerry went out prowling at night stealing women’s garments. Brudos also began to experience more migraine headaches and the pain was more intense. He also claims that he began to have “blackouts.”

People who worked with Jerry Brudos during this period remember a very mild-mannered and brilliant electronics technician. One of his former employers says that he felt that Brudos could have run any television or radio station in the country, but somehow he seemed to lack ambition. He was a dependable and valuable worker and presented himself as a family man who did not smoke or drink and never talked of women.

Despite their marital problems, in 1967 Susan became pregnant again. Brudos was very enthusiastic about her second pregnancy and wanted to be in the delivery room with Susan when the baby came. He felt betrayed by Susan when she told doctors not to allow him into the delivery room, later explaining to Jerry that she did not want him to see another man touching her. She did not think it was right.

A son, Jason, was born and Brudos, while continuing to ignore Karin, paid much attention to the infant, taking him along on errands and planning to teach the boy how to use his tools in the basement when he grew up. After Jason’s birth, however, the couple drifted apart even further. Susan, although she never told Jerry, was now actually repelled at the idea of having sex with him. She spent a lot of time out with her girlfriends, while Jerry was in his basement workshop fiddling with his electrical and electronic projects. Jerry’s mother, whom he openly hated, came over and babysat upstairs.

In 1967, another thing happened that may or may not have triggered Jerry Brudos on his path to serial murder. While repairing an electrical device he touched a live wire and received a tremendous jolt of power that knocked him off his feet. He was burned and dazed and sustained some neck injury. Brudos was very fortunate to have inexplicably survived the lethal current. As a result, Brudos would now suffer even more severe headaches, and would pass periods of time unable to work.

Shortly after the birth of his son and the accident, Jerry Brudos went out on one of his forays in which he knocked women down and stole their shoes. For some reason, however, this time he followed a woman back to her home. He waited until he thought she was asleep and broke into her apartment. When the woman awoke, Brudos pounced on her and strangled her into unconsciousness. He testified that her limp body aroused him to such an extent that he raped her. Brudos was now escalating into some kind of necrophiliac fantasy, even though he had not killed the woman. It is hard to say whether Brudos genuinely broke into the woman’s apartment to steal her shoes or deliberately stalked her. His change in MO is curious—why not just knock her down as before and take the shoes? Regardless, Brudos left the apartment with the shoes, which he claimed were his favorite of all he had stolen.

A serial killer’s first kill is often accidental or unplanned. It gives him the taste of blood, so to speak, and triggers his circular addiction for subsequent murders. We might wonder if there is such a thing as a “window” for some serial killers during which if they do not have an opportunity to commit their first murder, they never become serial killers. How many nonlethal sex offenders are separated only by chance from becoming serial killers? Some would say that it is just a matter of time for individuals destined to be serial killers—they will kill sooner or later; it is inevitable. Others say that some serial killers never start out with murder as part of their fantasy, and that the first homicide happens suddenly and unexpectedly during the commission of a lesser offense, but then, once committed, becomes incorporated into future offenses. The description is akin to human-eating lions and tigers, which, once they overcome their fear of people and get a taste of human flesh, never return to hunt wild game again.

We do know, by Jerry Brudos’s own testimony, that by the end of 1967 he was fantasizing about keeping preserved female corpses in a freezer so he could dress them in his favorite lingerie and pose them at will. But the actual killing itself was never part of Brudos’s prehomicidal fantasies.

One can only wonder what would have happened with Jerry Brudos if on January 20, 1968, encyclopedia saleswoman Linda Slawson had not gotten her addresses mixed up and accidentally called at the Brudos home, thinking she had an appointment there.

Jerry Brudos confessed to police that he was working in the yard when Slawson appeared at his house, saying she had an appointment. He showed her to the rear door and down to the basement, telling her he was interested in buying a set. Slawson must have been so eager to make a sale that she followed him down to her death. While Brudos’s mother was upstairs watching his little girl, Slawson sat on a stool in Jerry’s basement workshop and began her sales pitch. At some point Brudos slipped behind Slawson and struck her in the head with a two-by-four. He then strangled the young woman to death. He hid her body under the staircase, then went upstairs and asked his mother to go out and get some hamburgers.

Brudos then returned to the basement and took Slawson’s corpse out from under the staircase. The psychological drive behind his murder is clear in the answer he gave police when asked whether he remembered what Slawson was wearing. He responded that he could not remember her outer clothing but listed off to the police the precise color and style of lingerie. He said that he tried out different lingerie on her from his collection, dressing the dead woman like a “big doll.”111

Brudos kept the body into the night. Around 2:00 A.M. he loaded the corpse into his car and drove to a bridge over a river. He parked his car and took out the jack to make it look like he had a flat tire.

Just before he threw her over into the river he cut her foot off because he wanted to still keep some part of her. Brudos confessed to police that because he was right-handed he cut off her left foot. He took it home and kept it in his freezer. He would insert the frozen foot into different shoes from his collection and take pictures of it.112

One suspects that it was no coincidence that Jerry’s mother was just a few feet away on the next floor upstairs when he killed his first victim. Here he was, under the nose of the woman who had punished him for bringing back a pair of old shoes from a garbage dump when he was five, now hacking those shoes off the legs of real women, with their feet still inside. It was almost too simple to be true.


In the spring of 1968, the Brudoses moved to Salem into a house just a few blocks away from the Oregon State Hospital, where Jerry had been committed as a teenager. The house they rented had a garage that stood separately across a narrow breezeway, and Jerry was overjoyed by the big space for his “workshop.” He installed a heavy padlock on the door and an intercom. He told his wife never to go into the garage without calling him on the intercom. The reason, he said, was that he had set up a photo darkroom and if she opened the door, she might ruin the work he was doing.

Brudos bought a huge freezer and installed it in the garage. Susan complained that it was pointless to lock her away from the freezer when she needed to prepare dinner, but Brudos insisted she just tell him what she needed from the freezer and he would bring it to her. This annoyed Susan, as sometimes she just wanted to look over all the things in the freezer for an idea of what to prepare.

Susan noticed that Jerry was putting on more weight and getting fat and tubby. One day she jokingly told him he was getting too fat. Jerry left the room without saying a word and then returned about ten minutes later. Susan was shocked to see Jerry dressed in a bra with stuffing for breasts, a girdle with stockings, and huge high-heeled shoes. It was the strangest thing she had seen in her young life. Jerry asked her if he looked thinner now and Susan laughed nervously, not knowing what to say. After an awkward silence, Jerry left and returned as himself again. They never talked about it afterward and both behaved as if it never happened.

In November 1968, Jerry Brudos again killed unexpectedly. He encountered Jan Whitney on the highway by chance on his way from work. Her car had broken down and Brudos stopped. After inspecting the car, he said that he could fix it for her, but they would need to drive back to his house nearby for him to get his tools. Jan went along.

When they got to the house, Jerry told Jan that his wife had not come home yet and they would have to wait a few minutes for her to let him in so he could get his tools. Jan sat inside the car, which was parked in the driveway of Jerry’s house. Brudos nonchalantly slipped into the backseat of the car behind Jan. In his statement to the police, Brudos said that he engaged Whitney in a little game, asking her if she could close her eyes and, without moving her hands to demonstrate, describe how to tie a shoelace. Whitney went for the challenge and as she sat there with her eyes closed attempting to describe how to tie a shoe, Brudos slipped a strap around her throat and strangled her in the car. He then raped her corpse in the car. Afterward he carried her body into his workshop and dressed her in some of the clothes from his collection, photographed her, and had sex with her corpse again. Afterward he hoisted her up from a hook in his garage ceiling. He decided to keep the corpse.

Brudos confessed to police that he kept Whitney’s corpse hanging in the garage for days. He would rush home from work, dress the body up in various items of clothing, and have sex with it. He wanted something of her to keep and he cut off one of her breasts and experimented in preserving it. He stuffed it with sawdust and mounted it with tacks on a board like a trophy. He also tried taking a plastic mold from it in the hopes of producing lead paperweights but he was not satisfied with the result.113

Brudos got rid of Jan Whitney’s body only after the police nearly discovered it accidentally. Leaving the corpse hanging from the hook in the ceiling, Brudos took Susan and the kids on a Thanksgiving weekend trip. While away, an automobile passing the Brudos house skidded and crashed into the garage, knocking a hole through the wall. When the police arrived at the scene, they actually shone a light through the hole to inspect the damage, but did not see the dead woman hanging from the ceiling. Not wanting to violate any constitutional rights by entering Jerry’s property without his permission, the police left a card asking Jerry to call them when he got home. They needed to inspect the garage to determine damage for their report. When Jerry got home, he wrapped Jan’s body in plastic and hid her in the water pump shed behind the garage. He then called the police and let them inspect the damage. Afterward he threw Jan Whitney’s body into a river, weighed down with a heavy automotive part. Neither Whitney’s nor Slawson’s bodies were ever recovered, and Brudos refused to tell the police exactly where he dumped them.

In January 1969, Jerry Brudos celebrated his thirtieth birthday. Susan, in the meantime, began to witness her husband’s behavior becoming progressively more bizarre. One day while hanging the laundry she walked into the garage unannounced and saw photographs of nude women in Jerry’s development trays. Susan probably did not recognize that they were dead. Jerry told her that he was developing pictures for a “college kid” and reminded her not to enter the garage without telling him.

When Susan was away from the house, Jerry insisted that she telephone ahead before coming home. When asked why, he replied jokingly, so that he could get the blonde he had in the house out before she got home.

Then Susan found pictures of Jerry that he took of himself using a camera timer. He was lying on their bed dressed in different items of women’s lingerie. His face was covered in the photographs but she recognized his huge body.

One day she found a plastic object that looked like a very realistic copy of a female breast. She asked Brudos what it was, and he explained to her that he had an idea for a novelty item—a female breast paperweight. It was eerie how realistic it looked. Susan testified that Jerry told her it did not come out the way he wanted and that later he made another one, slightly different. This one he put on the fireplace mantel in their living room, where police would later find it when they searched his home. At some point during this period, Brudos also acquired a handgun.

In March, Jerry Brudos went out looking for victims. Accidental encounters were no longer satisfying enough—he now had the taste of blood and was trolling for suitable victims. Jerry Brudos told police that he came upon Karen Sprinker on her way to meet her mother in a department store restaurant. (That Brudos was identified and caught when police surveyed students in Sprinker’s college residence was a remarkable coincidence—Sprinker might have even rebuffed his telephone invitation only to succumb to him weeks later entirely at random in a different city.) Brudos was driving around the street when he spotted an attractive girl in a miniskirt and high heels entering a department store at about ten in the morning. Brudos parked his car in the store’s multilevel garage and went down into the store. But he could not find the girl. On the way back to his car in the garage, Brudos spotted nineteen-year-old Karen Sprinker emerging from her car. It was late morning, just before lunch hour.

Brudos at first was not entirely satisfied with the victim he saw approaching him. He recalled that he did not like the style of shoes she was wearing. But she was pretty and Brudos settled on her as victim just the same.114

Brudos confronted Sprinker with a pistol in the doorway of the department store and forced her out through the indoor parking garage to his car. Although it was noon, nobody passed by at the moment. As her mother patiently waited below in the department store restaurant, Sprinker was being driven away from the parking complex by Brudos.

Brudos drove Sprinker back to his home through midday traffic. Upon arriving at his house, he walked her into his garage and raped her. Afterward he allowed her to use the bathroom in the house and then walked her back to the garage and forced her to pose in various items of clothing and shoes while he took photographs. He then killed her by attaching a rope around her neck through the hook in the ceiling and hoisting her up.

Brudos told police that he then went back into the house, but later returned to the garage to have sex with Sprinker’s corpse. He cut off both her breasts and again experimented with taking molds from them but was still not satisfied with the results. He said that he did not like the bra Sprinker had worn so he picked out one of his favorite bras from his collection to dress her in but now that he had removed her breasts it did not fit. Brudos said he ended up stuffing it with paper towels so it would “look right.”115

When police searched Brudos’s house, they found the photographs that he took of his victims when they were alive and later, when they were dead. One picture showed one of the victims, dressed in a black lace slip, panties, and garter, hanging from a pulley on the ceiling—apparently dead. On the floor, Brudos placed a mirror so that it reflected the girl’s crotch beneath the slip Brudos had dressed her in. One corner of the mirror reflected Brudos’s drooling face gazing up at the girl—Brudos had accidentally photographed himself with his victim.

Brudos displayed a very typical pattern in serial murder: The first victim was killed unexpectedly without much planning; the second murder, ten months later, was more premeditated, but hesitating and virtually unplanned. The third murder, four months later, Brudos planned carefully and set out to commit, stalking his potential victim. Within a month of that killing, he began stalking his fourth victim.

His interaction with his victims likewise escalated. His first victim he only dressed and undressed like a doll; his second victim he raped only after she was dead; his third he raped before killing her. Brudos was “maturing” in his interaction with the women he attacked, in a pattern similarly observed in Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler.

In Portland, twenty-two-year-old Linda Salee was on her way back to her car after purchasing a present for her boyfriend when Brudos approached her in the mall parking lot. He flashed a toy police badge and “arrested” her on “suspicion of shoplifting.” Remarkably Salee said nothing as Brudos drove more than an hour to his house in Salem. Brudos said that it was as if she wanted to go with him.

Brudos drove the car with his victim right into his garage. His wife was home preparing dinner, so Brudos tied Salee up and went in to have supper. Brudos claims that when he returned to the garage he discovered that Salee had gotten loose of the ropes but had not attempted to escape or use the phone in the garage. This kind of passive behavior in shocked and traumatized victims is not uncommon.

Brudos then wrapped a strap around Salee’s neck and began to strangle her. Salee at this point began to fight back, scratching and kicking, but it was too late. Brudos stated that he raped her just as she died or shortly afterward. Brudos then revealed the cause of the strange burn marks police found on Salee’s body. Himself a surviving victim of an accidental electrocution, Brudos told police that he wanted to try an experiment using electricity. He confessed that he hung Salee on the hook like the other victims and stuck hypodermic needles into her rib cage. He then ran an electrical current through them to see if he could animate the corpse. Brudos was disappointed that the experiment did not work and only caused burns to the body. He had hoped, he said, that the corpse would “dance” or move in some way.116

Brudos told police he kept her corpse another day and a night, raping her again. But he did not cut her breasts because her nipples were not dark “like they should be.” He attempted to make plastic molds of them, but failed.


Brudos’s arrest was not easy, but he was arrogant and almost challenged police to find evidence to convict him. Several days after Brudos was identified when he called the girl at the dormitory, detectives came to visit him at his garage workshop. He freely let them come inside. They looked suspiciously at the strange hooks in the ceiling and the cord tied off in a knot exactly the same as the ones found on the ropes binding the bodies in the river. Brudos noticed the detectives eyeing the knot, and told them they could take the knot if they wanted—which is precisely what they did.

The fifteen-year-old girl that Brudos attempted to kidnap identified Brudos, and he was arrested on that charge. When police found a handgun in his vehicle, he was also charged with weapons offenses. But police did not have enough evidence to even search his garage—the photographs remained there while Brudos was being held on the other charges. At one point, Brudos even called Susan from jail and asked her to burn the container with the photographs and a bag of clothing, but she didn’t.

Detectives skillfully interviewed Brudos, who at first followed his lawyer’s advice and remained silent. In the end, however, Brudos needed to brag and he confessed to police. Subsequently his home and garage were searched and evidence recovered. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life.

His wife, Susan, was later charged as an accessory to murder and the children were taken away. She was found not guilty, recovered her children, and disappeared into obscurity. Brudos remained in love with Susan until the end.

Later Brudos appealed his conviction and is now eligible for parole. Today he denies that he committed any crimes and refuses to discuss them if asked. It is unlikely he will get released, but he keeps trying.

As of 1997, Brudos did not look like he had aged much since 1969. He was a model prisoner in the Oregon State Penitentiary, where he maintained the prison’s record computer systems and installed the cable TV network. He was also in charge of repairing, stocking, and maintaining the vending machines. These are all highly privileged positions, a remarkable achievement considering he is a sex offender, on the lowest rung of a prison hierarchy. Sex offenders are often murdered by their fellow prisoners, many of whom have wives, girlfriends, and daughters of their own. In fact, several “accidents” have happened to Brudos in prison, but he refused to name any attackers. Inside a prison only one of two things count: intelligence or strength. Brudos has both, and perhaps with that rare combination he has managed to rise above his sex offender status. He is considered by guards as polite and not particularly dangerous—he wanders around the prison unsupervised.117

 Ed Gein—The Original “Psycho”

Ed Gein, who killed in rural Wisconsin in the 1950s, is perhaps one of the more notorious hedonistic lust killers. He was the character on whom Robert Bloch’s novel Psycho and Alfred Hitchcock’s film of the same name were based, and part of the composite character of Buffalo Bill, the serial killer who skinned his victims in the novel and movie The Silence of the Lambs. Officially Gein is known to have killed two local women, which technically speaking excludes him from some definitions of serial killers that insist on three or more victims. But he was suspected in several other local homicides. He looked like a harmless farm-elf with one those flannel ear-flapped hats and his shirt buttoned to the top. His only reason to kill was that he needed to harvest human body parts—especially the husk of a female head and torso that he wore like a bodysuit.

Ed Gein lived alone on a farm after his mother and brother died and was known in the community as slightly odd but harmless. Nobody knew he had been robbing graves of freshly buried corpses for years. In 1954, however, he killed a local woman and dragged her body on a sled back to his farm. His crime was never detected.

In 1957, after Bernice Worden, a local town hardware store clerk, disappeared and somebody remembered seeing Gein in the premises earlier, the police visited his farm. They found a human heart in a pan on the stove; human entrails in the refrigerator; a shoebox with nine vulvas in it; another box containing four noses; a pair of stockings made from human skin; a soup bowl fashioned out of a human skull; a vest made from a female torso; skulls mounted on Ed Gein’s bedposts; nine masks made out of the flesh of female faces, some hanging on the walls as decoration; a human scalp in a cereal box; a drum fashioned out of human skin; four chairs whose upholstery was made of human skin caked in dripping fat; various pieces of jewelry fashioned out of body parts; and ten female heads. Many of the artifacts had been rubbed down with oil to keep their luster; the human masks were made up with lipstick; a red ribbon was tied through one of the vulvas. In Ed Gein’s summer kitchen, they found the headless and quartered corpse of Bernice Worden hanging from the rafters like a freshly killed deer.

Ed Gein had no particular compulsion to kill—what he needed was corpses. When during the hard winter months he could no longer dig into the frozen earth to uncover graves, he began killing to get his supply. Gein was certified insane and died in detention in 1984. One of his neighbors remarked, “Good old Ed. Kind of a loner and maybe a little bit odd with that sense of humor of his, but just the guy to call in to sit with the kiddies when me and the old lady want to go to the show.” For years, children who visited Gein’s house had been reporting to their parents that Gein had a collection of “shrunken heads” and strange masks hanging on walls, but the parents dismissed the stories as childish tales. None of the children ever reported Gein’s behavior toward them as threatening or unusual in any way.


These types of offenders specifically derive sadistic pleasure from the process of killing—not the actual killing, but the acts leading up to it. To enjoy the act, they need to keep their victims immobilized and alive and aware of what is happening to them. They often kill in elaborate ritualized methods and sometimes take a respite and revive victims who lose consciousness before continuing their torture. (A surviving victim of Richard Cottingham testified that he wiped her face down with a cool, damp cloth between bouts of torture [see the Preface].) These sadistically driven killers derive pleasure from the pain and suffering their victims go through as they die. Once the victim is dead, they almost immediately lose interest. Postmortem mutilation and necrophiliac acts are not a frequent characteristic of this kind of murder.

Thrill murders often involve three distinct crime scenes—where the victim is captured, a highly controlled environment where the victim is tortured and killed, and finally a site where the victim is quickly dumped. Thrill killers are often attractive, intelligent, charismatic psychopathic personalities, relying on their charm to seduce and lure victims to their deaths. They may pose as police officers and “arrest” their victims. They are highly controlled and controlling, carefully selecting and stalking their desired victim type. They either maintain a carefully chosen location where they torture and murder their victims or customize a vehicle, frequently a van, for their killing. The body is often disposed of so as to deliberately lead investigators away from the killing scene.

 Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono—“The Hillside Stranglers”

Operating as a team, these two cousins terrorized Los Angeles between October 1977 and February 1978, committing a series of rapes and murders of women. Many of the victims were dumped on the sides of the Hollywood Hills, and the media dubbed the presumed killer “The Hillside Strangler.” The police, however, knew because of seminal fluids and the positions of the bodies that two individuals were killing together. They withheld this information from the press.

The first victim was a black prostitute, Yolanda Washington, who walked the Sunset Boulevard area. Her naked body was found on October 18, 1977, on a hillside near the Ventura Freeway. Her murder merited a few lines in the newspapers in the back pages.

Fifteen-year-old Judy Miller went missing on October 31, 1977, in the Hollywood Boulevard area. She was a runaway, a drug user, and an occasional prostitute. Her body was found tossed in a flowerbed in La Crescenta. She had been vaginally and anally raped and traces of adhesive tape were found on her mouth, wrists, and ankles.

On November 6, 1977, the corpse of Lisa Teresa Kastin was found in Glendale. Unlike the other two victims, Kastin was not a runaway, drug user, or prostitute—she was working at two jobs: as a waitress and for her father’s real estate company.

On November 10, 1977, the body of Jill Barcomb, eighteen, a convicted prostitute, was found off of Mulholland Drive. Kathleen Robertson, seventeen, also part of the Hollywood Boulevard street scene, was found on November 17. Kristina Weckler, twenty, an art student, was found on November 20—she had been tortured prior to being killed. On the same day, the police found the bodies of Sonja Johnson, fourteen, and Dollie Cepeda, twelve. They were last seen at a shopping mall together. On November 23, Jane King, twenty-eight, a struggling actress, was found in the Los Feliz extension area. November ended with the discovery of Lauren Wagner, eighteen, a business school student whose raped and strangled corpse was found off Cliff Drive. There was little doubt that the murders were linked: almost all the bodies were nude; raped by two individuals; previously bound, gagged, and handcuffed; and tossed off the sides of roads or highways, often at hill sites above Hollywood, out of view of any houses. The police were also worried that the killers might have been police officers or somebody very familiar with police procedures. Virtually no evidence accompanied the corpses, and they had been obviously carefully stripped to further reduce any possibility of forensic links.

On December 15, seventeen-year-old prostitute Kimberly Martin was dispatched by her call girl agency to the Tamarind Terrace apartments in Hollywood. She had joined the agency because she feared exposing herself on the streets with the Hillside Strangler on the loose. Her naked body was found on a deserted lot near Los Angeles City Hall. When the police checked the apartment she had been dispatched to, they found it vacant and broken into. The killers had placed the call from a library pay phone nearby and then waited for their victim in the apartment.

The last known victim was discovered on February 17, 1978, when somebody reported seeing a car halfway down a cliff off Angeles Crest Highway. When police investigated the vehicle, they found in the trunk the raped and sodomized nude body of Cindy Hudspeth, a twenty-year-old student and part-time waitress.

Then the murders ceased as mysteriously as they began.


Eleven months later, in Bellingham, Washington, some 1,000 miles north of Los Angeles, Karen Mandic and Diane Wilder, two university students, disappeared.

Mandic worked part-time in a store during the evenings, and the previous summer she had made friends with a security guard who had worked there for a short time. He was a friendly, popular, and handsome young man who went on to become a supervisor with a Bellingham security company. His name was Kenneth Bianchi and he was twenty-seven years old. He lived with a local girl named Kelli Boyd and they had an infant son on whom Kenneth doted.

One day in January, Bianchi mentioned to Karen Mandic that he had a great opportunity for her to make a hundred dollars for two hours’ work. An alarm system in a house that his company was watching needed repair. The owners were away on a trip. Karen would be paid a hundred dollars to house-sit for two hours while the alarm was disconnected for repairs. Karen asked if she could bring her roommate, Diane Wilder, on the job. Of course she could, Bianchi told her. Only one thing: She must keep the job a secret until after it was done—nobody must know, not even her boyfriend. Karen however, told her boyfriend.

Karen Mandic and Diane Wilder were found raped and strangled in the trunk of their car parked on a dead-end street in Bellingham. The police didn’t take long to make the connection to Kenneth Bianchi, and when his security company reported no knowledge of any alarm repair scheduled for the house in question, but the keys to the house missing, Bianchi was arrested.


As police gathered physical evidence from the house where the girls were lured to and murdered and from Kenneth Bianchi’s apartment and his vehicle, there was little doubt that he had committed the crime. Yet nobody could quite believe it: Kelli Boyd maintained that Bianchi was a gentle lover and caring father to their son; the security company, run by a former police officer, reported that Bianchi was one of their best employees, a popular guard who was often requested by clients; and friends came forward maintaining that Bianchi was too gentle to have committed such brutal crimes.

The chief of police in Bellingham was a former Los Angeles–area police officer. During the Hillside stranglings, one of the victims was the daughter of a man he knew, and he had spoken to him at length about her murder. Through his contacts in Los Angeles, the chief was familiar with the series of murders there. Something about this murder reminded him of the crimes there. One of the first questions he put to Kelli was about Kenneth Bianchi’s background. Kelli replied that she had met him in Los Angeles about eighteen months ago when she lived there. After she had the baby, she moved back home to Bellingham and Kenneth Bianchi had followed in May of last year—three months after the Hillside stranglings had ceased.

Within hours, the chief was on the phone to Los Angeles. The links began to come together quickly the more Kelli was interviewed. Kelli and Bianchi once lived at the Tamarind building where the call girl was lured to a vacant apartment. Kelli reported that at one point they did not have a phone, and that Kenneth placed phone calls from a pay phone in the Glendale library—the same pay phone used to make the appointment for the call girl. When Kelli first met Bianchi, he lived on Garfield Avenue, where two of the Hillside victims were last seen. As the evidence began to gather, Kenneth Bianchi was charged in the Los Angeles stranglings as well.


Bianchi claimed that he could not remember committing any crimes, and psychiatrists were called in to assess his claims. Under hypnosis, Bianchi began to reveal other personalities that were allegedly living inside him—including one named “Steve Walker.” It was “Steve” who identified Bianchi’s accomplice—his forty-four-year-old cousin in Los Angeles, Angelo Bouno.

Under hypnosis, “Steve” emerged, claiming that Kenneth was a stupid and mild little man, that “Steve” hated women and made Kenneth commit the murders. “Steve Walker” described in detail how Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi posed as plainclothes policemen to lure women into their car. The prostitutes and runaways were “arrested.” The two girls at the shopping mall were spotted shoplifting by Bianchi and Buono and were also “arrested.”

One woman was lured out of her apartment when Bianchi called at her door and told her an accident had happened with her car in the street. She had met Bianchi before and did not hesitate to follow him out. Many of the victims were taken back to Angelo Buono’s upholstery shop in Glendale and raped and strangled there, before their bodies were stripped of all clothing and jewelry and tossed on hillsides by the two killers.

Another woman came to the shop to buy some seat covers for her car—she was overpowered, raped, and murdered. She was the last victim who was found in the trunk of her car, which was pushed down a hillside. Another victim was waiting for a bus when Kenneth Bianchi struck up a casual conversation with her and told her he and his partner were police officers at the end of their shift. The handsome Bianchi would be glad to give her a ride home if she did not mind taking a short detour while he dropped his partner off home first. The woman gladly went along. When they got to Buono’s house, she was handcuffed and quickly hustled inside.

At one point, Buono and Bianchi “arrested” twenty-seven-year-old Catherine Lorre, the daughter of actor Peter Lorre, who portrayed a serial killer in the classic 1931 Fritz Lang movie M. When they found a picture of the woman sitting on Peter Lorre’s lap among her identification, they let her go. Later she told police that they had approached her, flashing L.A. police badges (allegedly stolen by Buono from the set of a TV show).


Bianchi had almost convinced a board of six psychiatrists that he was legally insane and suffering from multiple personalities. The police, however, discovered that Bianchi owned a large collection of psychiatric textbooks and was an “amateur” psychiatrist who had actually opened a psychological counseling office in Los Angeles. It folded quickly when he could get only one patient. Bianchi had attempted to open the office with other legitimate psychiatrists and advertised seeking fellow tenants. One of the psychiatrists who responded to Bianchi and sent him a résumé was a doctor named Steve Walker, the police discovered. Bianchi then used the résumé to secure a copy of Walker’s diploma, which he altered by inserting his own name. The “Steve Walker” that existed within Bianchi was supposed to have existed since his childhood, but Bianchi had received the real Steve Walker’s résumé only a year previously.

Finally one psychiatrist broke through Bianchi’s game. He hypnotized Bianchi and told him to hallucinate that his lawyer was in the room. Bianchi immediately reached out into empty space and shook hands with the nonexisting lawyer. The problem is that while hypnotized subjects can be made to hallucinate people and objects, they do not hallucinate physical contact with them. Bianchi was obviously pretending to be hypnotized and his insanity plea was rejected.


Kenneth Bianchi was born in 1951 in Rochester, New York, to a seventeen-year-old alcoholic who gave him up for adoption; thus there was a possibility of prenatal brain damage. He was adopted at age three months by Frances Bianchi, an overprotective, anxious, and hysterical woman. There is a rich record of psychiatric and medical reports on Bianchi as a child, who was constantly brought to doctors by his mother for various imagined complaints. One that was not imagined was his tendency to wet his pants and bed, a common childhood symptom among serial killers. A medical report on Kenneth when he was seven years old reads as follows:

He had been admitted to the hospital on 12-15-58 with a diagnosis of genitourinary problems. His diagnoses now were: 1. Diverticulum, 2. Horseshoe kidney and 3. Transient hypertension. Dr. Townsend said that although these were physical problems for this boy, he also had many emotional problems. He proved to be “a little minx” on the floor. Everything went fine during the day except during visiting hours when his mother was there and then everything was wrong, especially for his mother’s benefit. He would have one complaint after another and Mrs. Bianchi would take these up with any available nurse or doctor who happened to be handy. Having this child hospitalized proved to be a trying experience and Dr. Townsend wondered if his social or home environment could be considered at all adequate.

A doctor’s report dated March 13, 1959, stated:

The impression is gained that this mother is herself a seriously disturbed person, and her discussion about the handling of the child by various medical men indicates some apparent paranoid trends. It is apparent that she had been strongly controlling toward this boy, keeping him out of school very frequently, particularly in the last several months, because of her fear that he would develop a sore throat and begin to wet. It is not clear whether this mother can carry through successfully with a psychiatric evaluation, but it is felt that diagnostic study should be offered, in order to clarify more fully the degree of personality disturbance on the part of the boy, the boy’s presenting symptom, and the nature of the family relationships, including the degree of disturbance on the part of the mother in particular.

When Kenneth was twelve years old, another report stated:

. . . Kenneth is a deeply hostile boy who has extremely dependent needs which his mother fulfills. He depends upon his mother for his very survival and expends a great deal of energy keeping his hostility under control and under cover. He is very eager for other relationships and uses a great deal of denial in handling his own feelings. For example, he says that his mother and father are the best parents in the world.

He is a very lonely boy who wants to move away from his mother. He is very constricted however, and feels being hurt if he should move away from her. Mother seems to allow him only one friend in the house. There seems some basic confusion around his own identity. He tries very hard to placate his mother, but she always seems to be dissatisfied. To sum up, Dr. Dowling said that he is a severely repressed boy who is very anxious and very lonely. He felt that the only outlet whereby he could somehow get back at his mother was through his psychosomatic complaints. Dr. Dowling felt that without this defense of the use of his somatic complaints he might very well be a severely disturbed boy.

It is interesting how sparse and few are the mentions of Kenneth Bianchi’s father—it is as if he did not exist. In the FBI sexual homicide study, 66 percent of sexual and serial killers interviewed reported their mothers as the dominant parent. Kenneth Bianchi’s father was almost never home, holding down several jobs. When Kenneth was thirteen, his father dropped dead from overwork with a heart attack. Kenneth was apparently devastated by his death. The psychiatric reports speak for themselves. Kenneth Bianchi was one very angry child who was suppressing his anger under a mask of friendliness and compliance.

Some argue that the formation of a serial killer is rooted to gender identification involving a boy’s ability to successfully negotiate his masculine autonomy from his mother. When a boy cannot achieve this autonomy or when there is no solid foundation for him from which to negotiate this autonomy, a sense of rage develops in the child, and he subsequently carries the anger into adolescence and adulthood, focusing it on females.

Kenneth Bianchi’s high school history seems fairly untroubled. He was athletic and popular with girls. In 1971, Bianchi married, but his young wife left him for another man after eight months. Friends recall that Bianchi seemed to have trouble perceiving the reality of his marriage. During this time, Bianchi studied police sciences at college and worked as an ambulance attendant. He hoped to become a police officer. After his breakup with his wife, however, Bianchi led a depressed and lonely life.

Between 1971 and 1973, three girls were strangled in Rochester while on their way to do grocery shopping for their mothers. After Bianchi was identified as the Hillside Strangler, police in Rochester suspected that Bianchi might have been behind these killings—but they remain unsolved.

By 1975, Bianchi’s mother was remarried and Kenneth had moved to Los Angeles to seek a new life. He moved in with his mother’s nephew, his cousin, Angelo Buono.

Buono was forty at the time, the father of seven children, three times divorced on grounds of cruelty—he had a predilection for violent anal sex. He had an upholstery shop behind a small house in which he lived. Buono also seemed to attract a stream of young runaway girls.

At some point, Buono and Bianchi decided to get into the prostitution business. They began to lure young runaways into drugs and prostitution. As Hollywood was, for obvious reasons, a mecca for runaway teenagers from all over the United States, Buono and Bianchi had no problems finding suitable girls to pimp. However, they ran into several problems. One girl told a client of such horrific abuse at the hands of Buono and Bianchi, that he refused to let the girl return to them. Buono and Bianchi threatened the man, who responded by sending Hell’s Angels bikers to threaten Buono. Buono was thoroughly terrorized.

Then Buono and Bianchi paid another prostitute for an alleged list of clients who regularly used prostitutes. The list turned out to be worthless. Shortly after this episode, Yolanda Washington, the first victim, a professional prostitute, was found strangled.

In the meantime, Bianchi had moved out into his own apartment and met Kelli Boyd, who worked as a secretary at the time. They became lovers, moved in together, and eventually had a child. Kelli recalls that Bianchi often went to his cousin’s upholstery shop to “play cards,” but she never accompanied him—she did not like Buono, who appeared to her as if he hated women. Otherwise, she remembers Kenneth as a childish and irresponsible man, but gentle and loving. She had not the slightest suspicion of his double life and was not convinced of it for the longest time, even after Bianchi’s arrest.

After what was at that time Los Angeles’s longest and most expensive criminal trial, Angelo Buono was convicted as the other Hillside Strangler. Because Bianchi had confessed to his crimes and testified against Buono, he was spared the death penalty. In the case of Buono, the jury felt reluctant to give him the death penalty while his partner got life. Buono denied having any involvement with the crimes to the end, but evidence linking him and Bianchi was fairly conclusive.

Kenneth Bianchi’s story did not quite end, however, after his arrest. Bianchi seemed to have a strange hold over women, which only increased after he was accused of killing a string of women. Veronica Compton, a twenty-four-year-old fledgling playwright whose work was obsessed with sadomasochism and serial murder, began to write to Bianchi while he was in jail. Eventually she went to see him and they began a relationship. In the summer of 1980, Bianchi showed Compton how he strangled his victims and slipped her a sample of his sperm secreted in the finger of a rubber glove. Compton then flew to Bellingham and lured a woman to her motel room where she attempted to strangle her. This was in an era before DNA testing, and the plan was to kill the woman in the same way Bianchi killed the others and make it look as if the killer were still at large by leaving a sperm trace similar to Bianchi’s. The victim, however, was more powerful than Compton and managed to escape. Compton was arrested shortly afterward. While in jail, Compton fell into a relationship through letters with another Los Angeles serial killer—Doug Clark, one of the Sunset Boulevard Killers. Compton was eventually convicted of premeditated attempted murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole until 1994. She is currently an inmate in the Washington Correctional Center for Women and, in 2002, published a book, Eating the Ashes: Seeking Rehabilitation Within the U.S. Penal System, in which, according to the publisher, “she relates heart-rending images of lives in disarray and describes programs that have been successful in producing rehabilitation.”118

It is interesting to note that Angelo Buono was the dominant partner of the two, and Kenneth Bianchi spent much of his energy attempting to please and impress his older cousin. Yet Buono is not known to have committed any murders before Kenneth arrived in Los Angeles or after Kenneth’s departure for Bellingham. Buono, however, is said to have kept Kenneth’s enthusiasm in check and made sure that the crimes were so carefully committed that there was no chance of their being arrested. Eventually, Buono grew tired of Bianchi and suggested that Bianchi go to Bellingham to join Kelli. There Bianchi attempted to commit two murders on his own and was quickly arrested. Without Bianchi, Buono would not kill, while without Buono, Bianchi could not kill efficiently. That often is the interdependent nature of serial killer partners.


Power/control serial killers are highly organized and closely related to sadistic thrill killers, with the difference that causing pain and suffering is not the primary motive for their offense; controlling and dominating the victim is (but they may use pain as a method of control and torture as a token of it). The actual pleasure of controlling the victim may begin before the victim even realizes it as the serial killer manipulates and seduces the victim.

These serial killers are often charming, charismatic, and intelligent, gradually taking control over their victims before springing a physical capture. Again, they often pick a certain “type” of victim, but fetishistic elements are less important. The murder is often the ultimate expression of the serial killer’s control over his victim—but unlike the thrill killer, the power/control killer does not necessarily lose his interest once the victim is dead. The control often continues into death with the offender keeping the corpses near him, sometimes in his home or in some safe place where they can be revisited. Sometimes various postmortem sexual acts, mutilation, and necrophilia also occur with the power/control killer.

 John Wayne Gacy—“The Killer Clown”

On December 11, 1978, in Chicago, Elizabeth Piest went to pick up her fifteen-year-old son, Robert, from a drugstore where he worked. It was her birthday and a big party had been planned. Robert asked her to wait inside the store while he went out to the parking lot to speak with a construction contractor about a summer job that would pay twice as much as he was currently earning. Robert had met the contractor when he came by to inspect the premises for some possible renovations. That was the last Elizabeth Piest ever saw of her son. He never returned to the store.

After the mother reported the disappearance, police went out to interview the contractor: John Wayne Gacy, age thirty-six, a short, chubby man with a double chin and a dark mustache. He was a successful building contractor, well known and respected in the community. He had been voted Jaycee (Junior Chamber of Commerce) “Man of the Year” in three different cities, led the Polish Constitution Day Parade one year in Chicago, and escorted President Carter’s wife, Rosalynn, on one of her visits to the city. In his spare time, Gacy entertained sick children at a hospital, dressed as a clown named “Patches” or “Pogo.” His act for the kids included the “handcuff trick,” in which he cuffed a child to a bed and pretended to lose the key, and the “rope trick,” in which he lassoed kids while they squealed with delight. He had lived in the same house since 1972, and neighbors described him as a helpful and friendly man who always decorated the house with elaborately strung Christmas lights. He shoveled snow for some of his elderly neighbors. He had been twice married and divorced and had two children.

Gacy would have been a very unlikely suspect had he not denied knowing Piest or being anywhere near the parking lot where the boy disappeared. When the police challenged him by saying that they had witnesses who saw him with Piest that day, Gacy admitted that perhaps he had been in the parking lot, but had nothing to do with the boy.

The police checked Gacy’s records and discovered that he had been convicted of forcible sodomy of a minor in Iowa back in 1968, a crime for which he served eighteen months of a ten-year prison sentence. In 1970, similar charges were brought against him in Chicago, but were dropped when the youth failed to appear in court. In March 1978, a twenty-seven-year-old man complained to police that Gacy had invited him to smoke some marijuana in his car and then clapped a chloroform-soaked rag over his face. He said that he had been driven to Gacy’s house and then whipped and repeatedly raped by him. Afterward Gacy released the man. The authorities could not secure enough evidence to bring Gacy to trial and the investigation lapsed.

Investigators surrounded Gacy with a tight ring of surveillance. At first Gacy challenged the police, telling the officers following him that their superiors were idiots and inviting them out for lunch. He would playfully tell the surveillance team his destination, and hung out his Christmas lights as usual at his house. But as the days progressed, Gacy began to show signs of stress—he stopped shaving and started drinking heavily and shouting at people. He hired two lawyers and filed a lawsuit charging the Chicago police with harassment and preventing him from conducting his business.

At one point, Gacy invited two detectives into his house for coffee, and one of them asked to use his bathroom as a ruse to poke around and see what he could find. The detective found nothing in the bathroom, but detected a distinct odor coming from the drain familiar to any experienced homicide investigator—the smell of decomposing human remains.

On December 21, the police searched his house and accused Gacy of holding Piest in it. Gacy denied the charge, but inexplicably admitted that in 1972 he had had a homosexual lover whom he killed in self-defense. He had buried the body in concrete in his garage, he told the police, and led them to the site, spray-painting a mark on the floor where the body lay. As the police searched the house, they found a trap door leading to a crawl space beneath Gacy’s house. There they discovered three decomposing corpses and parts of others. Gacy was arrested while the police began tearing his house apart. They uncovered the bodies of twenty-eight males between ages fifteen and twenty. Gacy admitted to killing another five and dumping their bodies into the river. Later, Gacy retracted his confession, claiming that some unidentified other person, who had a key to his house, had put the bodies there to frame him. Gacy said his worst crime was perhaps running a cemetery without a license.


John Gacy was born in Chicago in 1942. His mother was Danish and his father was Polish. The father was a heavy drinker and beat Gacy mercilessly. Gacy also claims that at age five he was molested by a teenage girl and by a male construction contractor at age eight. When Gacy was eleven he was struck in the head by a swing, causing a blot clot in his brain that needed treatment. As a juvenile Gacy committed numerous petty thefts and apparently engaged in homosexual sex.

Gacy was relatively intelligent and graduated from business college. He began working as a shoe salesman and in 1964 married his first wife, whose father owned several Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant franchises. Gacy became a manager in one of his father-in-law’s restaurants. Gacy had two children, a son and a daughter, and became well known in the community in Iowa. The marriage ended in 1968 when at age twenty-six, Gacy was suddenly arrested for handcuffing one of his juvenile employees and sodomizing him. Gacy received a sentence of ten years but was such a model prisoner that he was released after eighteen months. In the meantime, his wife divorced him.

Upon his release in 1970, Gacy left Iowa and returned to Chicago, where he went into the contracting business. He was charged that year in another sexual assault on a youth, but the charges were dropped. After his 1978 arrest, Gacy confessed that he had committed his first murder in 1972, when he brought a man to his house from the bus station for sex. Gacy said that they argued and the man attacked him with a knife. Gacy claimed that he killed him in self-defense and buried him in a crawl space under the house.

Later that year, Gacy married for a second time. His wife, her three children, and her mother all moved in with Gacy. When his wife was not home, Gacy lured youths to his house, raped them, murdered them, and buried their bodies under the house. His wife and mother-in-law lived with Gacy for about four years and constantly complained of bad odors in the house. Gacy explained that the smells must have been coming from “dead rats.” When his wife was not home, he poured concrete over the corpses in an attempt to cover the odors. Gacy also told authorities that he learned to stuff rags into the corpses’ mouths to prevent reeking body fluids from escaping.

When Gacy’s wife asked about wallets and clothing she was finding belonging to young men, Gacy shouted at her to mind her own business. He progressively became impotent with his wife and abusive. She finally moved out in February 1976 and subsequently divorced him. Gacy must have been relieved to see her go, because by then he was heavily addicted to killing.

From the testimony of several youths who had encountered Gacy, police learned that he cruised the streets looking for gay prostitutes or runaway kids or offered youths work with his construction business. Several youths testified that they went to his house for “job interviews,” during which Gacy showed them pictures of him with the president’s wife and offered to demonstrate to them his “handcuff trick.” It appears that only those youths who refused to participate in the trick survived to tell their stories.

Gacy very gradually ensnared his victims. He plied them with marijuana and alcohol and began by showing them heterosexual porn movies. He then shifted to gay porn. If the guest did not object, Gacy then did his “handcuff trick.” Once he had his victims imprisoned, he sodomized them. Gacy developed an elaborate ritual of torture in which he submerged his victims in a bathtub full of water with a plastic bag over their head and revived them before they died. Eventually they either died from the treatment or Gacy strangled them with his “rope trick.” He looped a cord around the victim’s throat, attached it to a stick, and slowly twisted the stick, tightening the noose. Gacy confessed that as he killed his victims, he recited aloud the Twenty-Third Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd . . . Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil . . .”

Curiously, the more Gacy killed, the higher a profile he kept in the community. His Pogo the Clown period was during the height of his killing. He threw an annual block party for all the neighbors and plowed all the sidewalks in the neighborhood free of snow without being asked. A local Democratic Party official recalled, “He was always available for any chore, washing windows, setting up chairs for meetings—even fixing someone’s leaky faucet. I don’t know anyone who didn’t like him.”

At one point after his arrest, Gacy claimed that there existed within him an “Other Guy tilt” who committed the murders. Tim Cahill writes:

Maybe drugs and alcohol set loose the Other Guy tilt to his personality . . . There was, John told the docs, a lot of the Old Man in the Other Guy tilt. Now, take the Other Guy tilt during a blackout and apply it to some greedy little hustler. You would get an angry, punishing father, an irrational alcoholic father who had to strike out . . . The corpse would be found in the morning with the dawning of sobriety, and it would be hidden in a father’s hiding place, in the basement, to be covered over and forgotten, like a father’s hapless drunken ravings.119

Five bodies, including Robert Piest’s, were never recovered. Gacy said he dumped them in the river. Because so many of Gacy’s victims were runaway youths from different cities, police and forensic anthropologists spent several years attempting to identify the twenty-nine bodies recovered from Gacy’s house. The police managed to link names with some of the victims, but eight remain unidentified to this day.

FBI profiler Robert Ressler, who interviewed Gacy after his conviction, states that Gacy told him that his victims were “worthless little queers and punks.” Ressler challenged him on that—was he not a homosexual himself? Gacy responded that his victims were runaways while he was a successful businessman. Moreover, Gacy explained that he was too busy to wine and dine and romance women—he had to settle for quick sex with males.

Gacy said, “Everything they’ve got on me is circumstantial. Do you realize that there’s not one person can put me with one of the victims before, during or after the crime . . . If you want to say I slept in the same house with a dead body, OK, fine, I’ll buy that—but in the same room, no! And besides, the dead won’t bother you—it’s the living you’ve got to worry about.”

Gacy lived on for another fifteen years, often granting interviews and receiving visitors. He became a jailhouse artist and several galleries exhibited his primitive paintings, many of Pogo the Clown. Gacy eventually set up a 900 number that people could call and hear a message he recorded proclaiming his innocence. He nearly married for a third time in 1986, one of the many women who wrote and visited him. John Wayne Gacy was executed by lethal injection on May 10, 1994, after all his appeals were exhausted.

Recent Revisions in Serial Killer Categories

The problem with all the classifications described so far is that the FBI system of organized/disorganized/mixed is proving to be too vague, with “mixed” being frequently a meaningless category. The visionary/missionary/hedonist/power-control categories are helpful in assessing motive, but do not contribute much to elements relating to the offender’s identity. None of these categories, including those in the FBI-authored Crime Classification Manual, are actually used to classify crimes by any major North American homicide computerized tracking system such as the FBI’s own VICAP; the Homicide Investigation Tracking System (HITS) in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho; or the Canadian Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System (ViCLAS).120

The most recently proposed new classification system comes from renowned criminologist Dr. Robert Keppel, a veteran of fifty serial murder investigations including those of Ted Bundy, the Atlanta child murders, and the Green River killings.121 His system is focused on classifying sexual “signature” murderers, both single and serial, and is based on categories first developed in the 1980s by Roy Hazelwood and Ann Burgess for the FBI’s classification of rapists. For investigative purposes, Keppel proposes the following classification of sexual serial killers divided into four categories: power-assertive, power-reassurance, anger-retaliatory, and anger-excitation.


Power-assertive killers commit crimes where a rape is planned but the murder is not, and the victim might be male or female. The killing occurs as a result of increasing aggression for the purpose of controlling the victim. The central motive to the crime is the assertion of a masculine power over a female or male victim. (Remember, sex and desire are actually low priorities in many rapes, which are mostly about aggression and control.)

These types of killers have a learning curve in which they evolve and improve their methods based on their previous experiences. The selection of victims is focused toward strangers who are taken by surprise when opportunity allows. Either the victims are found in the street or the perpetrator seeks them out in their homes or places of employment. If the victim is abducted on the street, the body is usually dumped elsewhere from where the victim was killed. If the victim is killed in his or her home, then the body is usually left there undisturbed by posing or postmortem mutilation. Clothing is torn off the victim and he or she may show signs of beating and pummeling. A weapon is brought to the crime scene, often a knife or rope, and is an important part of the masculine identity the offender forms for himself.

The degree of violence unleashed on the victim is governed by what the offender believes is short of perverse or deviant—therefore, mutilation of the victim is rare. Traces of ejaculate are commonly found at a power-assertive crime scene, with the perpetrator sometimes committing multiple rapes prior to killing the victim. After the murder, the offender maintains no links to the victim and leaves behind an organized crime scene carefully cleaned of forensic evidence. The killer feels that his self-image is beyond suspicion in a crime of this type and he emotionally detaches himself from it, allowing him to quickly repeat it. At the same time his need for power and recognition requires that he somehow be “credited” or suspected of the crime. He may reveal or hint at his role in the crime to friends, co-workers, cellmates, or even police.

Power-assertive killers are usually in their early twenties. They are obsessed with projecting a masculine image in a primitive kind of manner, while internally they are highly insecure in their masculinity. They often are body-builders, display tattoos, drive powerful well-maintained vehicles, carry weapons, participate in martial arts, and maintain a confident body posture and form. They are aggressive, arrogant, and condescending to others and function on the borderline of being loners. They are not perceived as “team players” by others. They may have a history of failed marriages and relationships and might be remembered by their former spouses as “control freaks.”

They are typically high school dropouts with a limited sense of masculinity, which means that their taste in pornography is unimaginative—usually limited to traditional “soft” erotica of the type found in Playboy or Penthouse. They may have a military record but it will be poor and frequently terminated early because of a lack of “team” social skills. Their criminal record may show power-demonstrative crimes such as robbery, theft, and burglary.


With power-reassurance killers, the rape is again planned while the murder is not. The main motivation of these types of killers is the realization of a seduction and conquest fantasy. The offender seeks from the victim reassurance that he is “pleasing” them or is “better” than other lovers. The murder occurs when the victim’s behavior contradicts or interrupts the fantasy. The offender either becomes enraged or coldly kills the victim and then reintroduces the fantasy into the encounter. Postmortem mutilation and necrophilia sometimes result as the offender insists on realizing his fantasy. The murder occurs when a rape fails.

The power-reassurance killer selects and stalks his victims carefully, and sometimes they are a casual acquaintance or a neighbor. The victim is frequently ten or fifteen years younger or older than the offender. A same-age victim might be chosen if he or she has some type of mental or physical handicap. Central in the offender’s mind is his fantasy and victim vulnerability and not a victim “type.” He will custom-fit his fantasy to whatever victim he selects.

The offender uses threats and intimidation to gain control of the victim. He has a weapon learning curve—often bringing none to the first offense; a gun that he will not discharge to the second; and a knife to the third, which he may use to actually kill the victim. During the initiation of the rape, the offender might be described as polite and gentlemanly, asking if the victim is comfortable and enjoying himself or herself—the so-called “gentleman rapist.” He is seeking reassurance of his sexual competency, and if he does not get it, he becomes violent and lethal.

Once the victim is killed, the offender may attempt to prolong the fantasy through necrophilia, mutilation, and ritualistic acts. Ejaculate is usually not found at the crime scene because the rape was unsuccessful and the fantasy interrupted. Again, as the killer finds some satisfaction in the postmortem acts and rituals, he is reinforced to repeat his crimes and increase his lethality in subsequent acts. He may take souvenirs and collect newspaper clippings in an attempt to maintain his fantasy relationship with the victim.

The offender is frequently in his mid twenties and has a fantasy life so intense and contradictory to reality that he may appear emotionally disturbed or unintelligent. Feeding on fantasy, he lives alone in isolation with no male or female friends and is perceived as a weird loner. He is incapable of the social interaction required to develop a sexual relationship or romantic partnership. He deeply fears rejection and prefers to focus his sexual energy through fantasy and substitute solitary sexual acts such as window peeping, fondling of clothing, pyromania, or kleptomania. He may have an extensive police record relating to these activities. His fantasies often emerge at a very young age and are buttressed by other environmental challenges and difficulties in his childhood.

He usually completes his education but is perceived as an underachiever. His military record likewise will show a history of an obedient but undistinguished soldier.

He is immature and lives life as an observer, not a participant. He lacks self-confidence and with his parents may live on a subsistence-level income or be employed in minimum-wage menial jobs. Familiarity is crucial to his confidence and he often works, lives, and commits his crimes in the same neighborhood. His most common means of transportation is walking, but if he owns a car, it will be run-down and poorly maintained. He leaves behind a disorganized crime scene.


With anger-retaliatory killers, both the rape and the murder are planned. The murder often involves “overkill”—excessive violence beyond what is necessary to kill the victim, who is usually female. The primary motive driving the killer is his need to avenge, get even with, or retaliate against a female, or her substitute, who somehow offended the killer in his perception. The rage is often inspired by a female with power presently or in the past over the offender—his mother, wife, teacher, or work supervisor. The rage is triggered when either the same female or another, in his perception, criticizes, scolds, humiliates, rejects, belittles, or somehow disrespects him, but the focus of his attack will be most likely an unsuspecting substitute victim.

The substitute victim will probably be the same age as or older than the offender and was previously selected as a potential victim. The offender would have seen the victim in the vicinity of his neighborhood or his place of work and noted her address and vulnerability level. Once angered, the offender usually walks to the crime scene to attack his prese-lected symbolic victim. If the offender uses a vehicle, he may drive to the scene but walk the last two or three hundred feet.

On some occasions, the anger-retaliatory killer may strike at the actual person who has angered him. In these cases, the victim is almost always younger than the offender or a child.

The offender may use some kind of ruse to get into the victim’s premises and then stage a confrontation with the victim, acting inappropriately to elicit a negative response from the victim. He unleashes a blitz attack, striking the victim in the face and mouth. As the attack escalates, he may use some object found at the scene to pummel or stab the victim. Ejaculate might not be found at the scene, as the primary focus of the attack is the assault on the victim. The offender’s age, emotional maturity, and experience govern whether he will be able to get an erection during the attack.

The assault will continue until the killer’s anger is satiated, even if the victim is long dead. When he is finished, the killer will position the body in a submissive pose: on its side away from the door, facedown, or with something covering the eyes. The crime scene is disorganized and the murder weapon is often found near the victim. Before leaving, the offender frequently takes some souvenir or token from the victim. He experiences no sense of guilt because he transfers blame for the murder to the victim and easily slips into a serial pattern of offenses.

The anger-retaliatory killer is usually in his mid to late twenties, impulsive, quick-tempered, and egotistically self-centered. He may be perceived as having an explosive personality. He is not a loner, but maintains shallow social relations, sometimes only limited to drinking buddies, and rarely reveals anything about himself to them. He may play team contact sports.

He feels both dependent and resistant in his relationships with women and often uses violence to resolve the conflict. If he is married, there will probably be a history of spousal abuse and extra marital relations. He may have a police record reflecting impulsive offenses such as assault, reckless driving, and threatening.

He is sexually frustrated and frequently impotent and has highly eroticized his anger, linking it to his sexual inadequacy. He does not consume pornography but he may exhibit some curiosity toward soft erotica like Playboy.

He had disciplinary problems in high school and is frequently an underachiever or dropout. Likewise, if he has a military record, there are often disciplinary problems and early termination of service. In general there is a history of conflicts with authority.


Anger-excitation killers plan both the rape and the murder. The primary motive is to inflict pain and terror on the male or female victim for the sexual gratification of the perpetrator. The crime is characterized by prolonged torture and mutilation of the victim, generally before death. The murder itself is on a lower priority for the offender, who focuses on the process leading up to it. The offender has highly specialized and elaborate fantasies focused on his need to express power and control. The crime is highly ritualized and often played out in a tightly scripted scenario, which evolves and is perfected victim by victim.

The victim is often a stranger who fits into an ideal victim type for the perpetrator: a student, a prostitute, a child, an elderly person, a “slut,” a nurse, and so on. The offender might alternatively show partiality in his victim preference: blond hair, long legs, blue eyes, small stature. There might be fetishistic elements as well: a type of shoe worn by the victim, color of clothing, and so on. The offender often approaches, seduces, and charms the victim. He maintains the ruse until he can isolate the victim from safety. At that point, the offender’s behavior vacillates between friendly and threatening until he entirely drops his mask. He may very calmly and matter-of-factly tell the victim, “I am now going to rape and torture you for three days and then I am going to kill you slowly and painfully,” to savor the fear in the victim.

Once the offender senses the fear, he begins a highly ritualized session of torture and degradation based on a complex of fantasies that the offender might have developed since early childhood. The offender may attempt to rape the victim and ejaculate at the moment of the death.

After death, there are frequently secondary sexual assaults: insertion of objects, mutilation, and harvesting of body parts. The body might be left in a bizarre state of dress or undress, reflecting some fetishistic focus. Items of clothing might be cut away, taken, or found neatly folded nearby. Often clothing, body parts, or other souvenirs are taken away and used for repetitive sessions of compulsive masturbation by the offender. It could be said that the offense continues in the offender’s comfort zone, far away from the victim’s body, and does not cease until the offender is emotionally satiated and completes his masturbatory arc.

The anger-excitation killer maintains a “murder kit,” consisting of a murder weapon, restraints, and instruments of torture, which he brings with him to the crime scene and carefully packs up and takes away afterward for safekeeping. The offender is highly alert to leaving behind possible forensic evidence, and frequently moves the body from the murder scene to another location and conceals it. He tends to commit his offenses and dump the bodies away from his residence or place of work. He may, however, then interject himself into the search for the victim or the police investigation of the murder in order to stimulate himself further.

The anger-excitation killer’s age is variable but usually he is a mature individual who often commits his first murder by age thirty-five. He is often a physically attractive, bright, and seemingly social individual. He appears to be law-abiding and conventional. He may frequently have a good marriage and be a doting father to his children, and be gainfully employed in a position requiring minimal supervision, or he may be self-employed in a semiskilled trade such as carpentry or mechanics. He shows signs of being compulsively organized and may have had several years of college education or graduated. If he has military service, his record is usually good and he may have been selected as a potential candidate for officer training.

Essentially, the anger-excitation killer lives a double life, carefully separating his conventional life from his fantasy-driven one. He probably maintains a private space where he keeps his murder kit, souvenirs, and other fetishistic tokens—a kind of dark secret chamber of horrors in the basement, the attic, a closet, the garage, or some nearby abandoned structure. He will be a consumer of sadistic pornographic literature and imagery.

Offense Distribution of the Proposed Categories

In October 1995 there were 41,584 inmates in the Michigan corrections system, of which 14 percent were serving terms for homicide (5,928 killers). Of those, 2,476 offenders—42 percent of all the murderers—had committed sexual homicides. Unfortunately the study did not differentiate between single and serial offenders.122 The distribution among categories indicated that power-assertive offenders consisted of 38 percent of sexual killers, anger-retaliatory 34 percent, power-reassurance 21 percent, and anger-excitation a mere 7 percent.

Other Classifications and Typologies

While the types described previously seem to be the most often cited in serial homicide analysis, serial killers can be shuffled into many different categories and types. These categories can be based on all sorts of criteria: psychological, pathological, criminal, social, and even astrological. One astrological study found that many serial killers were born under the sign of Gemini or Sagittarius: Jeffrey Dahmer, David Berkowitz (Son of Sam), Wayne Williams, Danny Rolling (the Gainesville Ripper), Peter Sutcliffe, Arthur Shawcross, and Richard Chase (the Vampire Killer) were Geminis, while Dennis Nilsen, Ted Bundy, and Edmund Kemper were Sagittarians.123

Serial killers can be classed by their gender or social identity: gay killers, female killers, team killers, cult killers, professional killers, medical killers, family killers, and so on.

Female Serial Killers

So far I have been using the pronoun he when referring to serial killers, simply to facilitate the flow of words. However, I should be referring to serial killers as he or she, because nearly one out of five serial murderers are women. In fact, they are often more deadly and more prolific than typical male serial killers. Female serial killers are described as the “quiet killers” because they rarely leave bodies dumped by the roadside, which alarm a community. Their killing careers last twice as long as men’s: eight years for women to the male serial killer’s average of just over four years.124 Their killing is often committed at home or in a professional setting such as a hospital, retirement home, boardinghouse, or hotel, where sometimes it is not even noticed or recognized as a murder.

A study of incarcerated female non-serial murderers found that on average 77 percent were unemployed when they committed their offense, 65 percent were black, and 76 percent had children, and their median age was twenty-seven.125 Female killers are young and poor, and often function in a socioeconomic class where interpersonal violence is more frequent and “acceptable.”

The statistics for specifically female serial killers are substantially different: 95 percent were white, their median age was thirty, and only 10 percent were known to be unemployed, while 10 percent were professionals, 10 percent were skilled workers, 15 percent were semiskilled, and 11 percent were other, such as self-employed or business proprietors (and 41 percent unknown).126 Their higher socioeconomic class, where interpersonal violence is less acceptable, suggests some kind of psychopathology behind their crimes. Poor unemployed women living in a society where often responding with interpersonal violence is the only way to survive may commit a spontaneous homicide in the heat of a moment. But the more middle-class female serial killers contemplated and planned their murders carefully.

The motives of female serial killers are substantially different from those of the female single killer or even the male serial killer. On average, 74 percent of female serial killers were at least in part motivated by personal financial gain, a sad reflection on their middle-class aspirations.127


While there are arguably no cases of a single female sexual serial killer operating in a similar manner to the men described in this book, there are numerous cases of women participating in sexually sadistic serial murders as accomplices of a male partner. The male is often the dominant one in the team and commits the actual homicides, but not always. Nearly 44 percent of female serial killers committed their crimes as an accomplice, often in the company of a male partner.

During the mid-1930’s, American psychologist Abraham Maslow undertook a number of studies of sexual behavior related to dominance. He noted that in captivity, the most dominant monkeys engaged in almost constant sex, and that the nature of that sex was often “abnormal”—male monkeys mounting other males and even instances of dominant females mounting males. Maslow concluded that sex in those circumstances was often an expression of dominance rather than of the primates’ sex drive. He also noted that when a new monkey was introduced into the group, the lower-dominance monkeys would act extremely violently toward it. Maslow linked these attacks to low-esteem violence of the type seen in human beings.

Maslow then turned his attention to young college girls, whom he interviewed at great length. In 1939, Maslow concluded that female sexuality is also linked to dominance. He found that people fall into one of three categories: high-dominance, medium-dominance, and low-dominance.

High-dominance women were more promiscuous, sexually adventurous, and uninhibited. Medium-dominance women tended to also be very sexual but usually related to one male partner at a time. Low-dominance women had a very low opinion of sex, engaged in it infrequently, and felt that its only purpose was for reproduction. Maslow noted that the sexual characteristics of each category had nothing to do with sexual desire: While the sex drive was equally intense in each type, the amount of sex that the women actually engaged in differed.

Maslow also discovered that women preferred males who were slightly more dominant than themselves but within the same dominance group. High-dominance women rejected most males because of their lower dominance. One woman who claimed that she could have an orgasm by simply looking at an attractive male explained to Maslow that she couldn’t have an orgasm when having sex with some males because they were too weak and she could not imagine herself “giving in to them.”

Medium-dominance women found high-dominance men too frightening, while low-dominance women found the medium-dominance man intimidating. Each mated with slightly more dominant men but from within their dominance class. For Maslow, this was the normal course of male-female relationships and is often applicable to homosexual relationships as well.

In certain situations, however, partners from different dominance groups mate, and a very severe dynamic emerges in the relationship. The reason that such mating occurs is usually some type of emotional disorder that leads an individual to seek a mate from a different dominance class. High-dominance individuals with personality disorders, needing to sadistically dominate their mate, may seek out partners in lower-dominance categories, while lower-dominance individuals with personality disorders, compelled perhaps to act out an abusive scenario, may seek out higher category mates. Often the result is a slavelike, almost hypnotic relationship between the two parties where one partner totally dominates the other, yet both are desperately dependent upon each other. Sometimes the one vital element that a dominant partner lacks to unleash his or her homicidal fantasies is provided by the submissive partner.

 Gwendolyn Graham and Catherine May Wood

Gwendolyn Graham and Catherine May Wood are a rare case in which two women teamed up in a series of sexual murders. Wood was a recently divorced 450-pound supervisor in a nursing home when she entered into a lesbian relationship with Graham, a nurse’s aide. The dominant Graham told Wood that it would be a sexual thrill to murder six elderly patients in the home so that their last names would spell out the word murder. Their spelling game failed when some of the patients did not die as easily as the couple hoped. Nevertheless, using a wet washcloth to suffocate the patients, Graham killed five victims while Wood stood guard. After each murder, the couple immediately retired to a vacant room in the nursing home and had sex. In exchange for her testimony, Wood received a twenty-to-forty-year sentence, while Graham was given six life sentences. (The sixth sentence was for conspiracy to commit murder.)

 Myra Hindley and Ian Brady—“The Moors Murderers”

In England between 1963 and 1965, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley murdered nine children and youths. When Brady was twenty-three he was working as a stock clerk at a chemical company, where he met a typist—eighteen-year-old Myra Hindley. Myra was described as a perfectly normal girl who loved animals and children and brightly colored lipstick. She fell in love with the “intellectual,” dark, and brooding Brady.

Myra lost her virginity to Brady and became his slavish girlfriend. A converted Catholic, Myra was soon convinced by Brady of the nonexistence of God. She was completely enthralled with the older and “sophisticated” Brady, who read intellectual books, sported black shirts, and was learning German. Myra said, “Within months he had convinced me there was no God at all: He could have told me that the earth was flat, the moon was made of green cheese and the sun rose in the west, I would have believed him, such was his power of persuasion, his softly convincing means of speech which fascinated me, because I could never fully comprehend, only browse at the odd sentence here and there, believing it to be gospel truth.”

According to Myra, in July 1963 Brady began to talk to her of committing a perfect murder as proof of their superiority. On July 12, Myra and Brady set out to commit their perfect crime. Myra drove a van while Brady followed her on his motorcycle. It was Myra’s job to pick up a female hitchhiker; she was successful in luring sixteen-year-old Pauline Reade into the vehicle. Myra told Pauline that she was on her way to the moors—the bleak, windy, grassy expanses of wasteland outside Manchester. She had lost a glove there, Myra said, and if Pauline would help her find it, she would give her some record albums as a reward. Pauline agreed and the two set out to the deserted moors, followed discreetly by Brady on his motorbike.

At the moors, Brady attacked Pauline, raped her, and cut her throat. Although Myra claims that she was in the van when the rape and murder took place, in an open letter from prison in 1990, Brady stated that Myra also committed sexual acts on Pauline. Afterward, using a spade that they had brought with them in the van for the occasion, Myra and Brady buried Pauline’s body on the moors.

On November 23, 1963, using the same ruse, they murdered a twelve-year-old boy, John Kilbride. Myra stated that Brady raped the boy and strangled him because the knife was too dull to cut his throat. Police were later able to find Kilbride’s grave by identifying prominent land features in a photograph of Myra posing on the grave with her dog. Later when Myra was under arrest and was told that her dog died in police custody, she remarked, “They’re nothing but bloody murderers.”

On June 16, 1964, they murdered another twelve-year-old boy, Keith Bennett, using the same methods. After being raped and strangled, he was buried on the moors and his body, despite numerous efforts, including some with the help of Myra and Brady, has never been found.

It would be a year and a half before the couple would kill again. On December 26, 1965, they kidnapped ten-year-old Lesley Ann Downey and took her back to their house. There Brady set up a light and camera and forced the girl to pose for pornographic photographs. Then, turning on a tape recorder to record the child’s screams, Brady raped the girl. According to Brady’s 1990 letter, Myra “insisted upon killing Lesley Ann Downey with her own hands, using a two-foot length of silk cord, which she later used to enjoy toying with in public, in the secret knowledge of what it had been used for.”

In October 1965, Brady decided he wanted to form a gang, and began to talk with Myra’s unemployed brother-in-law, David Smith, about committing a hold-up. On the evening of October 6th, Smith dropped by the house and complained of having no money. Brady suggested: “We’ll have to roll a queer.” He went out and came back later with seventeen-year-old Edward Evans. Brady struck Evans with an ax and strangled him. He made Smith hold the ax so that his fingerprints would be on the weapon and then the two of them wrapped the corpse in plastic and cleaned up the blood. Myra and Brady then went to bed while Smith wandered off home in a state of shock. At home he told his wife what had occurred and they immediately called the police.

The next morning the police raided Brady’s house and found the corpse in a spare bedroom still wrapped in plastic. In the spine of a prayer book, the police found a key to a train station locker where they discovered the pictures and tape recording of Leslie Ann Downey. The tapes were played in court during Ian Brady’s and Myra Hindley’s trial. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment.

The crimes of Brady and Hindley touched so raw a nerve in England that even in 1997 their crimes remain a sensitive issue. When in September, British Royal Academy of Arts held an exhibition of young artists’ works that included a thirteen-foot portrait of Myra Hindley by painter Marcus Harvey, objections were raised. The family of one of Hindley’s victims appealed to the Academy to exclude the work. On the opening day of the show, the portrait was splashed with paint, ink, and eggs and had to be withdrawn for a week for restoration.

Myra Hindley died in prison at the age of sixty in November 2002, while Ian Brady is still confined in a psychiatric facility where he has recently written a book entitled The Gates of Janus: An Analysis of Serial Murder.

 Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo—Sex, Death, and Videotape

Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo have been called the Ken and Barbie Killers. When arrested, he was twenty-eight and she was twenty-two years old. Paul Bernardo was blond, blue-eyed, tall, athletic, intelligent, and handsome with what many described as an angelic face. Karla also had a head full of thick blond tresses and was blue-eyed, smart, and petite with a well-proportioned body and good looks. He was a university-educated accountant and she was a recent high school graduate who worked as a veterinarian’s assistant. Both were brought up in anonymous middle-class suburbs, attended typically middle-class suburban schools, and frequented typical high school and college student events and parties. Everything about them was typical: Their taste and style were not too high class and not too low class—they were upscale shopping mall mediocre.

They met when Karla was seventeen and Paul was twenty-three, and they engaged in sex within hours of their first encounter. After a several-year engagement, Paul and Karla were married in a lavish, but again entirely mediocre style that could have, and probably did, come from the pages of some popular bridal magazine. They left the church in a horse-drawn carriage and honeymooned in Hawaii.

They settled to live in one of those typical, affluent, middle-sized towns that dot the fertile belt of southern Ontario known as the “Golden Horseshoe” between Toronto and Niagara Falls. They rented a perfect little lakeside Cape Cod–style house for $1,200 a month and furnished it with typically Canadian pine furniture.

Atypically, by the time Paul and Karla left for their honeymoon, they had already together raped, tortured, and murdered two adolescent girls, one of whom was Karla’s fifteen-year-old sister Tammy. Upon their return from Hawaii they kidnapped, raped, and killed a third girl. They recorded all three crimes on videotape.

So perfectly respectable, attractive, and inoffensively middle-class were the couple that nobody suspected them of anything, even though their first victim, Karla’s younger sister, showed signs of anesthetic drug influence and had been raped. Even for hardened police investigators, it was inconceivable that the “Ken and Barbie” couple before them could have had anything to do with the girl’s death.

In 1993, Karla arrived at a hospital with black eyes and a swollen face, accusing her husband, Paul, of severely beating her with a flashlight. Shortly afterward, Paul was arrested for a series of brutal rapes in Toronto, committed more than a year earlier and in which he was not exactly suspected but not cleared either. A sample of his DNA was collected, but it would be more than a year before the overworked and under-funded provincial lab could process and match all the samples.

Karla suddenly confessed that Paul was also responsible for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of two young teenage girls and the accidental death of her own younger sister, Tammy, while raping her on Christmas night in her parents’ basement rec room. Karla had provided the veterinary drugs that had knocked her sister out. As the two videotaped the assault, they took turns molesting and raping the girl, who then in her unconscious state choked on her vomit and died.

As the details of the rapes and murders began to emerge, Karla claimed “battered-wife syndrome,” saying that she had been forced to participate in these crimes. She agreed to testify against her husband in exchange for a lighter sentence. No sooner had the prosecution signed and sealed the deal with Karla, than the videotapes surfaced showing Karla lustfully participating in the torture and rapes of the victims. One fifteen-year-old victim, Kristen French, was seen being repeatedly raped, sodomized, and tortured over a three-day period, sometimes by Bernardo alone, sometimes by both of them. But it was too late to undo the deal the prosecution team had made.

During the trial Bernardo claimed that it was Karla who actually murdered the girls because she was jealous of the attention he was lavishing on the captives. Karla was certainly aware of and entirely indifferent to the victims. As Bernardo beat, raped, sodomized, and tormented fourteen-year-old Leslie Mahaffy in their bedroom, Karla took little breaks downstairs in the living room reading the Bret Easton Ellis novel American Psycho until Paul called her to come up and hold the video camera. When asked in court how she could possibly read while a girl was being tortured and raped upstairs, Karla incredulously replied that she was quite capable of doing two things at same time.

It was revealed at the trial that Karla shaved the hair from the head of one of the dead girls rather than throw away a carpet that might have picked up hair traces from the victim (to the great confusion of profilers, who interpreted the hair shaving as a “signature”). Marks of what appeared to be her knee imprints were found on one victim’s back. The videotapes did not show the actual murders, however. In the end, the jury chose to believe that Bernardo was most likely the killer: He had committed a series of very violent rapes and dismembered one of the dead victims.

Karla Homolka, who has been happily taking university courses while in prison, is due to be released very shortly, having nearly finished her entire fourteen-year term, while Bernardo is serving a life sentence.

 Carol Bundy and Douglas Clark—“The Sunset Boulevard Killers”

In 1980 in Los Angeles, Douglas Clark and Carol Bundy were involved in the murders of at least six young women who were either hitchhiking or working as prostitutes in the Sunset Boulevard area. Clark enjoyed carefully shooting his victims in the head when they were performing oral sex on him. He then had sex with their cadavers. Carol accompanied Clark on at least one of the murders, sitting in the backseat of the car and watching as Clark murdered the victim in the front. On another occasion Clark brought home a severed female head and asked Carol to set the victim’s hair and apply some makeup; he then had sex with the head in the shower. Eventually Carol killed a male victim and severed his head in a futile attempt to impress Clark, whose interest in her was waning.

 Charlene and Gerald Gallego

The bisexual Charlene Gallego tested in prison at an IQ of 160. She was a talented violin player and college graduate from a wealthy California family. One evening while buying drugs at a club, she met Gerald Gallego. He had a lengthy record of sex offenses beginning at the tender age of thirteen, when he raped a seven-year-old girl. Moreover, he had a criminal pedigree going back to his father, who had killed two law enforcement officers and was the first person executed in Mississippi State’s gas chamber when Gerald was nine years old. Charlene was instantly attracted to Gerald Gallego’s “outlaw” persona and married him.

Once again, she was probably a high-dominance woman who needed a high-dominance man—Gerald was perfect. He fantasized along with Charlene about keeping virginal young sex slaves at a remote country house. On his daughter’s (from another marriage) fourteenth birthday, he sodomized her and raped her friend as Charlene watched.

Things went wrong when one night both of them seduced a sixteen-year-old go-go dancer. The three-way sex was fine, but the next day after coming back from work, Gallego found Charlene and the dancer having sex together. He became enraged, threw the girl out, and stopped having sex with Charlene. Charlene then suggested that they kidnap, rape, and murder young girls.

Killing between September 1978 and November 1980, they often kidnapped girls from Sacramento shopping malls. They also killed in Nevada and Oregon, often beating in the heads of their victims with a tire iron or shooting them with a .25-caliber pistol. They buried one victim alive, a pregnant woman. In three instances, they kidnapped two women at a time. Gerald shared the victims with Charlene, who liked to bite one girl as another performed oral sex on Charlene. She bit the nipple off one of the victims.

At one point, Charlene got into a gunfight with Gerald when he started raping their two young teenage captives in the back “without waiting for her” while she was driving the van. The couple shot at each other until Charlene grazed Gerald’s arm.

Charlene was seven months pregnant in 1980 when their car was identified during their kidnapping and murder of a high school couple during a prom night. When police showed up at their door, the couple were such unlikely suspects that police left even though the suspected car was parked in their driveway. When police returned several hours later, the Gallegos had already fled.

They were eventually apprehended and Gerald Gallego was sentenced to death, while Charlene Gallego, in a pattern that should be familiar to the reader by now, received a sixteen-year sentence, testifying against Gerald.

While in prison she continued her education, studying a range of subjects from psychology to business to Icelandic literature. “She’s a pretty intellectual woman,” said Nevada District Judge Richard Wagner, who was the lead prosecutor in Gallego’s Nevada trial. “She has a phenomenal mind, which made her a tremendous witness. . . . She had almost a photographic memory about the victims, down to their shoes and clothes.”

On July 17, 1997, Charlene was set free and reverted to her family name of Williams. In an interview she claimed that she was as much a victim of Gallego as the other girls: “There were victims who died and there were victims who lived. It’s taken me a hell of a long time to realize that I’m one of the ones who lived.”

Charlene said of Gerald Gallego, “He portrayed to my parents that he was a super family guy. But soon it was like being in the middle of a mud puddle. You can’t see your way out because he eliminated things in my life piece by piece, person by person, until all I had around me were members of his family, and they’re all like him, every one of them. . . . Prison was freedom compared to being with him.”

Gerald Gallego recently died of cancer in the midst of his attempts to get a new trial. On November 20, 1999, a Nevada farmer uncovered a shallow grave containing the bodies of fourteen-year-old Brenda Judd and thirteen-year-old Sandra Colley, missing since 1979, two of the ten known victims of Charlene and Gerald.


There are remarkably frequent cases of women, some of them well educated and with “normal” family backgrounds, emerging as willing accomplices in sadistic rapes and murders of children, men, and women. Other noted sexual killer couples include and Fred and Rosemary West in England, who sexually murdered at least ten women and young girls, including their daughter, between 1971 and 1987; Debra Denise Brown and Alton Coleman, who bludgeoned, shot, tortured, and raped eight victims age seven and up in Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan in 1988; and Judith and Alvin Neelley, who called themselves “The Night Rider and Lady Sundance” and robbed, raped, and murdered fifteen women in Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia in 1980–1982.

 Aileen Wuornos—The Single Female Sexual Serial Killer Who Wasn’t

There seem to be virtually no records of single female sexual serial killers operating in the way male serial killers described in this book do. Even the case of Aileen Wuornos, often cited as an example of a male-type female serial killer, seems to lack the sexual pathology of a male sexual killer. Wuornos was a thirty-five-year-old Florida roadside prostitute who was convicted for shooting six men. Although she robbed her dead victims, her motive appears to have been revenge or rage induced as a result of a lifetime of real and perceived abuse.

Throughout the period of the murders, numerous other lesser charges were laid against her under different aliases for threatening people with a weapon, assault, vandalism of her apartment, and other minor offenses. She constantly traveled with a loaded handgun. In one town she was charged with making threatening calls to a supermarket chain over a lottery ticket dispute, and in another with assaulting a bus driver over a fare dispute. Addicted to cocaine and possibly crystal meth, she was wired up into a highly aggressive state of rage.

Her victims were elderly male motorists. Either they mistook her for a woman needing assistance or a hitchhiker, or they picked up Wuornos for sex. Their bodies were found dumped in remote areas, often shot several times in the back and the head, and their pockets turned inside out or their clothes stolen in their entirety. Their vehicles were found elsewhere, with property removed from them. There was no evidence, however, of torture or mutilation of the victims.

At her trial Wuornos claimed that she shot these victims in self-defense when they attempted to rape and assault her during her encounters with them. Indeed, it turned out that her first victim, Richard Mallory, had served ten years for a violent rape. The other five victims, however, had no records of sexual assaults. The likely scenario is that Wuornos shot Mallory in self-defense and found herself afterward in a raging addiction to kill more. Perhaps some real or imagined slight during her encounter with her elderly victims triggered her murderous acts. Perhaps they reminded her of her grandfather, who abused her and who she thought was actually her father until age thirteen. Wuornos was raped at age fourteen and gave birth to a son, who was given up for adoption. From age fifteen she led a life of prostitution and drug addiction and claimed she was raped five more times before age eighteen.

During her trial Wuornos became a cause for some factions of the feminist movement, who believed that her crimes were a response to systemic abuse at the hands of men. Whether or not Wuornos is to be believed—and certainly her claims are plausible—her childhood and adolescent history is comparable to that of many male serial killers who did not get a break from the justice system. Neither did Wuornos: She was executed in Florida on October 9, 2002.

Wuornos is often presented as a sexual killer because the offenses took place in the context of her prostitution. But it is highly debatable whether her killings gave Wuornos any sexual gratification in the way male sexual serial killers derive theirs.



Black widows are probably the most common type of female serial killer. These women focus on victims with whom they establish extensive relationships—their husbands, children, and lovers. Almost 85 percent of these types of serial killers use poison to murder their victims.128 Their motive is material gain—they acquire or inherit the property of their victims or collect on their insured lives.


Angels of death are women who kill victims in their care: nurses who kill babies, patients, or elderly victims, or childcare workers who murder children in their care. Their motives range from profit to the attention and praise they get when they revive a patient who suffers a medical emergency they secretly induce. Others derive a sense of power and thrill from taking life. Some are missionaries, believing that certain types of patients do not deserve to live, while others have a misguided sense of mercy, believing that they save their patients from unnecessary suffering by killing them.


Hieronymus Karl Friedrich von Munchausen was an eighteenth-century German baron and mercenary officer in the Russian cavalry. On his return from the Russo-Turkish wars, the baron entertained friends and neighbors with stories of his many exploits. Over time, his stories grew more and more expansive, and finally quite outlandish. Munchausen became somewhat famous after a collection of his tales was published.

Almost a century later, an unusual behavior pattern among young men gained recognition in the writings of Charcot. In 1877, he described adults who, through self-inflicted injuries or bogus medical documents, attempted to gain hospitalization and treatment. Charcot called this condition mania operativa passiva.

Seventy-four years later, in 1951, Asher described a similar pattern of self-abuse in which individuals fabricated histories of illness. These fabrications invariably led to complex medical investigations, hospitalizations, and at times needless surgery. Remembering Baron von Munchausen and his apocryphal tales, Asher named this condition Munchausen syndrome.

Today, Munchausen syndrome is a recognized psychiatric disorder. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM III-R) describes it as the “intentional production of physical symptoms.”

The term Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) was coined in a 1976 report describing four children who were so severely abused that they were dwarfed. In 1977, Meadow described a somewhat less extreme form of child abuse in which mothers deliberately induced or falsely reported illnesses in their children. He also referred to this behavior as MSBP.129

In an extreme case of MSBP, Marybeth Tinning in Schenectady, New York, was arrested after eight of her children died one-by-one between 1972 and 1985. The children all appeared to succumb to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and authorities at first did not suspect the apparently loving mother who grieved for her children.

Marybeth responded to all these deaths with a round of dramatic funeral announcements and a gathering of all her friends and relatives. Both her birth and death announcements put her in the center of attention. One relative said, “Every funeral was a party for her, with hardly a tear shed.”

Concerned relatives forced a careful autopsy when the eighth child in Marybeth’s care, her nine-month-old daughter, died of what appeared to be SIDS once again. The autopsy revealed that the child was in fact suffocated.

Marybeth Tinning confessed to the murder of the infant and to the murders of two other children, but not the others. She also confessed that she was attempting to poison her husband. In 1987, Tinning was sentenced to twenty years to life.

Kathryn A. Hanon, an investigator with the Orlando Police Department and a specialist in Munchausen syndrome by proxy abuse cases, writes: “MSBP offenders are uncharacteristically calm in view of the victims’ baffling medical symptoms, and they welcome medical tests that are painful to the children. They also maintain a high degree of involvement in the care of their children during treatment and will excessively praise the medical staff. They seem very knowledgeable of the victims’ illnesses, which may indicate some medical study or training. They may also have a history of the same illnesses being exhibited by their victims.”130

The Spree Serial Killer: A New Emerging Breed of Murderer

Serial killers were at one time called “mass killers.” But today a mass murderer is an individual who at some point “snaps” mentally and explodes in a murderous rage, killing multiple victims during a single incident. Sometimes such mass slaughters begin with the offender killing members of his own family or other people close to him before proceeding to other victims. Often these outbreaks are nothing more than a form of selfish suicide, where the mass killer intends to take others with him into his own death.

Only half of all mass killers survive their outbreaks—the other half are shot by police or commit suicide when they run out of either victims or ammunition. These outbreaks of killing usually last for short periods of time, anywhere from a few minutes to a day, with the killer rarely going to sleep after he commits his first homicide. The killer proceeds from murder to murder in a nonstop fashion. Charles Whitman, who shot sixteen people from a clock tower in Texas; James Huberty, who killed twenty-one victims at a McDonald’s restaurant in California; Colin Ferguson, who killed six people on a commuter train in New York; and Columbine teenage gun-men Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who killed twelve fellow students and a teacher, are all mass killers.

Spree killers, on the other hand, tend to stretch their killing out over a longer period of time, stopping to rest and sleep and often changing locations. Generally speaking, spree killers often murder while committing other felonies. The killing is secondary to their other crimes. Frequently they are escapees from justice and are highly mobile. They do not fit the classic serial killer pattern: There is no cooling-off period where they slip back into their daily routine lives and identities before going out to secretly kill again. Spree killers are often identified outlaws on the run and they do not lead the double life of a serial killer. Usually spree killers commit their crimes over a period of a few weeks before they are apprehended or killed.

Now, however, we are seeing a new category emerging—the spree serial killer. These are serial killers who live only one identity—that of a killer. They seem to have no cooling-off period; they do not return to a normal routine but remain focused on evading capture and perpetuating their compulsion to kill. Often they are fugitives, but the reasons for their flight are not other crimes, but their very acts of serial murder.

These murderers become more difficult to discern from the typical serial killer because ostensibly, by killing multiple victims on different days, they meet the classic definition of a serial killer. There are, however, subtle differences. Typical serial killers have a cycle in which their desire to kill grows and builds, and is followed by a period of depression and release after the murder. (See Chapter 8.) Some serial killers promise themselves during this postkill period that they will never murder again. They go back to the patterns of their normal life after the murder—they return home to their families, they report to work the next day, and so on. Before long they begin the cycle anew. The spree serial killer might not go through this cycle—instead he immediately launches into preparing for his next murder; he becomes a “full-time” killer and makes no attempt to lead a “normal” life.

What spree killers share with mass murderers is a mental “snapping” point of no return. They bear stress and pressure for months or years, but once something triggers their killing they never return back to their previous lives.

The murders by Andrew Cunanan in 1997 and more recently the Washington, D.C., beltway sniper killings in 2002 define this category of spree serial killer, but like everything in the history of serial homicide, it is not exactly new. Christopher Wilder, Alton Coleman, and Paul John Knowles are serial killers in the past who today can be reclassified as spree serial killers. They remained highly focused on killing, committed felonies in order to sustain their killing careers, and led no routine life or maintained no identity other than that of serial killer.

Wilder is a particularly interesting personality because he became a spree serial killer after his first series of murders were uncovered. Until then he maintained an identity as a wealthy Florida builder, photographer, and amateur race car driver. Once discovered, he abandoned all that and hit the road as a fugitive, continuing to commit new murders until police shot him dead.

 Andrew Cunanan

More than any other killer, Andrew Cunanan made us recognize this category of spree serial killers when he murdered Gianni Versace on the morning of July 15, 1997. The fifty-year-old fashion mogul was returning to his house in Miami Beach after having a coffee and buying some newspapers at a local cafe. As Versace approached the gates of his house on Ocean Drive, twenty-seven-year-old Cunanan stepped up from the sidewalk and fired a shot through Versace’s left cheek with a powerful .40-caliber handgun. With Versace collapsed on the ground, Cunanan coldly fired a second shot through the back of his head.

A hotel security camera around the corner recorded the presumed assassin running down the street, and witness statements had him entering a municipal parking garage a few blocks away from Versace’s house. In the garage, police found a pickup truck with clothing and Andrew Cunanan’s passport. The truck belonged to another murder victim, killed six weeks earlier. At that murder scene, in New Jersey, police found a vehicle belonging to yet a third murder victim, killed in Chicago five days previously. And in Chicago, police had found yet another vehicle that connected Cunanan to a double homicide in Minnesota. A trail of murder victims’ automobiles (and the same handgun) linked Andrew Cunanan to five murders across the United States between April 29 and July 15, 1997. On July 23, the manhunt for Cunanan ended when he shot himself dead while holed up in a houseboat he had broken into moored several miles away from the scene of Versace’s murder.

Andrew Cunanan had been almost universally described as a serial killer, for indeed he killed five victims on five different dates. Others, however, categorize him as a spree serial killer. His first two victims were both individuals he knew and was close to. He never attempted to cover his identity as a murderer, and after his first killing he lived on the road as an “outlaw.” Moreover, Cunanan’s murders lacked a consistent serial killer’s signature—the subconscious imprint of a definitive, elaborate, identifiable, and evolving fantasy that a serial killer leaves on each of his victims. For example, Cunanan’s victim in Chicago, believed to be a stranger, was extensively mutilated, tortured, and bound by Cunanan, while his victim in New Jersey was quickly shot for his vehicle, with no sexual fantasies involved. Because the victim was apparently killed for only his vehicle, some clinicians describe that murder as “serial functional.” Versace’s “execution-style” murder also differed radically from the murder in Chicago. As a matter of fact, had Cunanan’s friendship with the first two victims not tied him to those murders, and vehicles and ballistics not linked him to the other three homicides, investigators might not have been inclined to link the murders. (On the other hand, confusing matters is the fact that both Versace and the Chicago victim, developer Lee Miglin, were both high-profile, middle-aged, extremely wealthy entrepreneurs. Victim selection is also part of a “signature.”)

Finally, when Cunanan was discovered at the houseboat by a caretaker and knew that his capture would be imminent, he shot himself dead—a typical conclusion for a serial spree killer.

There is, of course, one question in the midst of all this—what happens when a spree killer does not get apprehended? Does he at some point “cool down”? Does he then return to a killing cycle again? The psychological histories of both mass and serial killers are remarkably similar in their buildup of “stressors” before they commit their first murder. Fantasy and sex, however, play a lesser role in the classical spree–mass killer profile. This is not so in the case of spree serial killers, whose psychopathology parallels those of classic serial killers.


Andrew Phillip Cunanan was born on August 31, 1969 and grew up in Rancho Bernardo, California, an upper-middle-class suburban community in the hills north of San Diego. He was the youngest son of Filipino Modesto Cunanan and Italian Marie Ann Celino. His father was a retired US navy officer who became a stockbroker. Andrew had two older sisters and a brother.

His sisters and brother recall that Andrew was very intelligent and pampered by their father. He had the master bedroom in the house and was given credit cards at age seven with which to entertain his friends. He was the family “star,” memorizing almost the entire contents of encyclopedias. They remember him as a happy and nonviolent child. They insist that their Catholic family suspected that Andrew was gay and would have accepted it if they had confirmed it.

Whether the family would have accepted it or not, the fact remains that Cunanan himself felt that he needed to lead a double and fractured life as a teenager. Moreover, it might have been worse: There is fragmentary evidence that he might have been sexually abused in his adolescence by a priest at the time he was serving as an altar boy. A sexual abuse hotline in 1996 logged calls from somebody using the same pseudonym that Cunanan later used, warning about a sexually abusive priest in San Diego. The priest was apparently charged, but not convicted, of abuse of other youths during the same period that Cunanan served as an altar boy. The evidence is admittedly tenuous, but nonetheless, entirely plausible.

Cunanan graduated from the prestigious catholic Bishop’s School, an elite preparatory school in La Jolla, a wealthy neighborhood of San Diego. His classmates remember him being openly and flamboyantly gay, once appearing at a school function dressed in a red patent-leather jumpsuit, a gift from a much older man who was his date. Cunanan was voted by his fellow students as “Least Likely to Be Forgotten” in the 1987 school yearbook. The young Cunanan was an above-average student, reading the Bible and teaching himself Spanish. He was already fluent in French.

In later years, some of the well-educated and professional people he encountered remarked that they were impressed by his brilliance and his ability to absorb information. He was a witty conversationalist and a pleasure to have at a dinner party. He could recall the provenance of a painting, from when it had been painted to the history of its subsequent owners; he was fluent in the intricacies of political issues and could describe the texture of exotic gourmet delicacies or what was the most luxurious hotel to stay at in Morocco or the best restaurant on Capri.

In 1988, Cunanan began studying at the University of California at San Diego, majoring in art history. He was full of hope and promise with the keys to a great future: a solid upper-middle-class background, wealth, prep school education, charm, vigor, and charisma. And then it suddenly collapsed.

Cunanan’s father, “Pete” Modesto was accused of embezzling $106,000 from the brokerage where he worked.131 Faced with a possible criminal indictment, with Andrew his youngest child now nineteen years of age, Modesto had few qualms about what he did next: He packed his bags and left for the Philippines, abandoning the family. Marie Ann divorced him and sold the house. After Modesto’s liabilities were deducted, $3,000 remained from the sale.

No doubt Modesto had underestimated Andrew’s capacity to overcome this disaster and continue with his promising future. Andrew dropped out of college and went to the Philippines to join his father. There he was overwhelmed by what he perceived as the abject squalor in which Modesto was now living. He returned to San Diego and moved in with his mother in a small $750-a-month rented condominium in Rancho Bernardo. During this period, Cunanan’s history shows some capacity for violence—he got into an argument with his mother and pushed her so violently against a wall that her shoulder was dislocated.

To get by Andrew worked sporadically as a discount drugstore clerk. Mostly, however, he sought out older men to replace the love and financial security his father had once provided him.


Between 1990 and 1996, Andrew Cunanan cruised the gay communities of San Diego and San Francisco, making his living as a upscale gigolo for refined, professional, older men. He was well known in the San Diego gay social set. Restaurateur Michael Williams said, “Andrew did his homework. He would investigate older, wealthy gay men who didn’t have families, and he would place himself in those circles. That was his living.”

On October 21, 1990, Cunanan encountered Versace at a reception at the Colossus nightclub in San Francisco, when Versace had designed costumes for the opera company. Versace apparently thought he had met Cunanan somewhere before, and they briefly exchanged words before Versace moved on. Despite all sorts of fragmentary reports that Versace had more contacts with Cunanan, other than the short encounter in San Francisco, there is no evidence of any contact between Cunanan and Versace.

Through the years Cunanan told fantastic stories about his life, claiming he was the son of a Hollywood movie mogul, spinning tales of his family’s wealth, and claiming ownership of sugar plantations in the Philippines and a villa in the French Riviera. Cunanan said his father was a Filipino general close to the fallen dictator Marcos and that he was bisexual as well, with a young lover whom Andrew claimed he resented. Cunanan said that he had a pilot’s license and that he was a personal pilot to a Filipino senator whom he flew in the senator’s decaying airplane, which was nicknamed the “Buddy Holly death plane.”

In later years he lived and socialized under assumed names: Andrew Phillip De Silva and, at other times, Drew Cunningham. Many of his acquaintances in San Diego did not even know that his real name was Cunanan. However, they remembered Cunanan picking up $1,000 dinner tabs and leaving $200 tips, smoking $10 Davidoff cigars, and never drinking anything stronger than cranberry juice. He was the center of attention and welcomed young gay men arriving in San Diego and fixed them up with contacts.

When not living off rich older men, he worked as a male prostitute through an escort agency that charged a paltry $140 a night, 40 percent of which Cunanan dutifully forwarded to the agency. But clients were very pleased with Cunanan, and he began to get cross-country referrals from the agency.

In 1996 Cunanan was living in La Jolla with Ron Grundy,* a conservative retired millionaire and art collector in his sixties. Cunanan convinced Grundy to sell his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, and buy an oceanfront house in La Jolla. The house had been previously owned by an older friend of Cunanan’s, Lincoln Aston, who in 1995 was bludgeoned to death by another man.

From Grundy, Cunanan received an allowance of $2,000 a month and a $30,000 1996 Infiniti I30t automobile, and he was given plenty of free time to pursue his own friendships. He and Grundy often flew to New York for Broadway shows and spent the summer of 1996 in Paris and the south of France.

In September 1996, however, Grundy and Cunanan split. The exact circumstances of the breakup are obscure. Cunanan claimed that he left Grundy because he was too cheap—that he refused to fly first class and would not buy Cunanan a Mercedes 500SL he desired. Others report that Cunanan was upset by the split. In any case, Grundy let Cunanan keep the Infiniti. Cunanan moved into an apartment he shared with two roommates. He was now just eight months away from his first two murders.

While Cunanan performed as a gigolo to the aging millionaire Grundy, he was really in love with another man—thirty-three-year-old David Madson, whom he met in San Francisco in December 1995. Madson was a talented designer of retail banking centers for a Minneapolis company. He traveled all over the country, designing storelike banking facilities for malls and shopping plazas. He would become Cunanan’s second murder victim in April 1997.

Cunanan also formed a nonsexual friendship with twenty-eight-year-old Jeffrey Trail. Trail was a former U.S. Navy officer and small-arms instructor who had served on a guided-missile cruiser in the Persian Gulf and was in training with the California Highway Patrol when Cunanan met him. Cunanan, who had fantasies of being a naval officer himself, admired Trail and claimed that he was his best and oldest friend. It was a strange friendship, because Trail was straitlaced and a conservative opponent of drugs, while Cunanan consumed drugs liberally and was a flamboyant attention-grabbing liar. Jeffrey Trail would be Cunanan’s first murder victim.

By September 1996, Cunanan’s relationship had fallen apart not only with Grundy but with Madson and Trail as well. Madson had dropped Cunanan back in the spring when Cunanan began disappearing for ten days at a time, presumably to service Grundy. When Cunanan broke up with Grundy in September, he attempted to rekindle his romance with Madson, but was turned down.

Many say that Cunanan was quickly losing his youthful good looks and was growing fat and ugly, a kiss of death for any gigolo’s career. A testament as to how fat Cunanan was by the end is the police report mentioning Cunanan’s bloodied jeans at the scene of Trail’s murder. The formerly slim Cunanan was wearing size 36 jeans.

To continue maintaining his lifestyle, Cunanan began intensively dealing in drugs, mostly pharmaceuticals. He also started smoking crack cocaine. There is no crazier nor more deadly drug than crack. Crack really does all the things that antidrug crusaders for decades claimed other drugs did: makes you insane, paranoid, totally out of control, crazy-homicidal-suicidal.


In the summer of 1996, Jeffrey Trail had cut Cunanan off from his friendship. Cunanan told several people that Trail was angry with him because he became connected with Cunanan’s drug-dealing business and was forced to resign from the California Highway Patrol training program. Trail’s acquaintances vehemently deny this, stating that Trail was very conservative and would never become involved in drug traffic. Nonetheless, Trail’s sudden resignation from the highway patrol remains a bit of a mystery. Rejected by both Trail and Madson, getting tubby and disheveled, Cunanan began to disintegrate through the winter of 1996–1997. He had to sell his car to pay for his lifestyle, having racked up $50,000 in credit card debt.

Cunanan began a subtle mind game with Madson, telling him that Madson was his only path to reforming himself. Although they were no longer lovers, Madson continued to see Cunanan and meet with him in San Francisco. He told people that he couldn’t abandon Cunanan as he was trying to change his life around.

Both Jeffrey Trail and David Madson coincidentally then moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2,000 miles away from San Diego. Although Trail and Madson knew each other through their relationships with Cunanan, they were never lovers; each had their own boyfriends in Minneapolis. Cunanan was despondent.

On the Easter weekend of April 1997, Cunanan joined David Madson in Los Angeles. Madson was there to meet with two friends from San Francisco who were getting married soon. Madson was to give away the bride. Cunanan took two $395 rooms at the Chateau Marmont and insisted that everybody stay with him. The couple later remembered that Cunanan seemed to be in a manic state, promising to pay $15,000 for the wedding reception of a couple he had just met. Madson and Cunanan argued when Cunanan made sexual advances toward Madson.

Cunanan was beginning to slide into a disturbed state of mind. At a party given by Madson, Cunanan set fire to a pile of paper napkins at the table and walked away. After a screening of Pulp Fiction in San Diego, people noticed how animated and excited Cunanan was over the scene where a man has his head blown apart in the backseat of a car by a gunshot. On a beach he scooped up some live crabs and burned their eyes out.

Cunanan announced that he was moving to San Francisco to start a new life. He told several people that before moving, he needed to see Jeffrey Trail about some “unfinished business.” Cunanan went to the airport and purchased an airline ticket for Minneapolis. He had to plead and persuade the ticket clerk to put the purchase on his credit card—he was way over his limit. An acquaintance recalled, “Andrew said that he would call in a few days if he needed a ride home from the airport, but that call never came.” Nobody knew that that the ticket Cunanan purchased for Minneapolis was one-way.

Both Jeffrey Trail and David Madson were patient and accommodating with Cunanan on his visit. Trail described Cunanan as being like a “disliked relative” who had to be hosted out of obligation. On Friday, April 25, David Madson picked up Cunanan from the airport and took him back to his apartment, where he was going to spend the night. It was understood that Cunanan was in Minneapolis for the weekend and was going to fly home on Monday morning. Friday night, Madson and Cunanan met with friends for dinner. Cunanan had Madson show everybody a Cartier watch that Cunanan had given him “for being a great friend.”

On Saturday, Madson and Cunanan went out to dinner again, but Cunanan spent the night in Jeffrey Trail’s apartment, who left a key for him. Trail had told Cunanan that he wasn’t going to be able to see him much that weekend because his boyfriend, Jon Hackett, was celebrating his birthday. Trail spent Saturday night over at Hackett’s place, perhaps even as a favor to Madson, to take Cunanan off his hands for a night.

On Sunday morning, a friend of Madson’s called and asked how things were going with Cunanan. Madson said everything was fine and that Cunanan had stayed at Trail’s apartment but would be coming back tonight to his place.

On Sunday morning, Cunanan answered several calls at Trail’s apartment and took messages for him. He then returned to Madson’s apartment, presumably to spend the last night there before returning to California the next morning.

On Sunday afternoon, Trail appeared at a baseball game and then he and Hackett had dinner at home that evening. They decided to go dancing but before they left, Trail found a message on his answering machine from Cunanan, asking him to come by and see him at Madson’s apartment. Trail told Hackett he would go over and see Cunanan for about twenty minutes—they had something they needed to talk about. He would then meet Hackett at a nightclub between 10:00 and 10:30 P.M. The caller ID on Madson’s phone shows that Cunanan admitted somebody into the building, no doubt Trail, at 9:45 P.M. Trail failed to meet Hackett later that night.

Jeffrey Trail was a twenty-eight-year-old adult, so it was not a simple matter to report him missing to the police. Not only would police require a seventy-two-hour waiting period before they would activate an investigation, but they would want a report from Jeffrey Trail’s parents or relatives, not a boyfriend. Hackett was not sure whether Trail’s parents knew that their son was gay, and did not want to call them. Thus Trail’s disappearance went unreported for several days.

Nor was David Madson to be seen anywhere. He failed to report to work on Monday. When on Tuesday he did not come in to work, two of his fellow workers visited his apartment. They heard Madson’s dog scratching on the other side of the door. At 4:00 P.M. on Tuesday, the superintendent used his passkey to look into Madson’s apartment. Madson was nowhere to be seen, but Jeffrey Trail was found dead, rolled up in a carpet. He had been struck in the head with a claw hammer some twenty-five to thirty times; his watch had stopped at 9:55. The hammer was apparently taken from a toolbox that stood open nearby. Two sets of footprints tramped through the blood and gore. Madson’s dog appeared calm and fed. Witnesses reported that they had seen Madson and Cunanan coming in and out of the apartment for the last two days.

On Monday evening Cunanan was seen back at Trail’s apartment. He presumably went there with Trail’s keys and stole his .40-caliber handgun. Cunanan and Madson spent two days with Trail’s body in Madson’s apartment. When people began calling at the door, Cunanan and Madson drove off in Madson’s Jeep Cherokee.

There has been no end of speculation why Madson stayed with Cunanan. The shock of finding Trail dead in his apartment might have unhinged Madson. Perhaps Cunanan threatened him with the handgun—he may have taken it earlier on Sunday from Trail’s apartment.

On May 3, about forty miles outside Minneapolis, fishermen found the body of David Madson on the shore of East Rush Lake. He had been shot once through the back and once through the eye. A third shot had grazed his cheek. Cunanan had killed the two people whom he said he loved most in his life.

Lee Miglin, seventy-five years old, was a prominent real estate developer in Chicago. He had no known connections to the gay community or known homosexual predilections. On May 4, his wife returned from a trip and was surprised that he did not come to the airport to pick her up. When she arrived home by taxi, she found her husband’s body stuffed under a car in their garage. Miglin had suffered some forty-nine separate injuries—every rib in his body was broken and his head was nearly severed. There were fifteen blows to his head and Miglin had been run over by his car at least five times. His face was wrapped in a plastic bag fastened with duct tape. A small opening was left at the nostrils through which he could breathe. A pair of pruning shears were plunged into his chest and his throat had been carved through with a gardening saw. Cunanan had spent the night sleeping in Miglin’s house, made himself some sandwiches, and shaved in the bathroom. It is believed that Cunanan struck at Miglin’s house at random when he saw Miglin through an open garage door as he drove by. Madson’s jeep was found parked near Miglin’s house, while Miglin’s 1994 Lexus was missing.

There are two troubling factors about Miglin’s death. First, Miglin fit perfectly the social profile of the kind of men that Cunanan used to service as a gigolo. It was a remarkable twist of luck for Cunanan to have been able to zero in on that type of victim at random. Second, witnesses stated that one of the stories Cunanan had told months earlier was that he was going into the movie soundproofing business with Duke Miglin, the victim’s twenty-five-year-old son. Duke Miglin, however, vehemently denied that he had ever met Cunanan or that he was gay. The Miglin family also reiterated that Lee Miglin was exclusively heterosexual.

On May 9, in New Jersey, forty-five-year-old William Reese, a cemetery caretaker, did not come home for dinner. His wife drove to the cemetery and found him on the office floor, dead with a single shot to the head. Miglin’s Lexus was parked in the cemetery but Reese’s red Chevrolet pickup truck was missing. Reese’s murder was described as “functional.” He was killed for his vehicle. The murder of Reese is perhaps the most tragic, for if Cunanan had only known how to hot-wire a car, Resse probably would not have been murdered.

During the night of May 10, a license plate was stolen from a Toyota in Florence, South Carolina. The plates would be found attached to the truck that Cunanan stole from Reese.


On May 12, Cunanan checked in at the Normandy Plaza, a shabby hotel in Miami about four miles north of Versace’s home. Cunanan paid $230 in cash weekly for his room. The management of the hotel says he went out every night but never brought anybody back with him. He frequently changed his appearance, including the color of his hair, the manager said.

The parking records at the municipal lot near Versace’s house show that Cunanan parked the truck there on June 10 and did not move it. It accumulated nearly $130 in daily parking charges. This suggests that Cunanan had already decided to stalk and kill Versace more than a month before the murder.

On June 12, the FBI put Cunanan on its Ten Most Wanted List and distributed his picture. Several sightings of Cunanan were reported from all over the United States, but several came from Miami. Police were slow to respond.

On July 7, Cunanan pawned a gold coin in a Miami pawnshop, using his own name. The coin was rare enough to attract the attention of the police, but remarkably they failed to recognize Cunanan’s name. The coin was later traced to Lee Miglin’s collection.

On July 10, Gianni Versace arrived in Miami after being away on business. Witnesses later testified to seeing Cunanan in various clubs and restaurants that Versace might have conceivably patronized. One of them was the 11th Street Diner, where Miami’s chief of police was known to lunch.

Chicago police captain and serial killer specialist Tom Cronin stated, “Down deep inside, the publicity is more sexual to him than anything else. Right after one or two of these homicides, he probably goes to a gay bar in the afternoon when the news comes on and his face is on TV, and he’s sitting there drinking a beer and loving it. You hide in plain view.”

After invisibly lurking around Miami for more than two months, Cunanan struck on the morning of July 15, killing Gianni Versace. Nothing is known about Cunanan’s state of mind between the first four murders and the day he committed the fifth two months later. Cunanan disappeared within minutes of Versace’s murder, presumably breaking into several boats to hide. Police intercepted phone calls he made to a friend, attempting to secure a false passport to get out of the country. But in the end, Cunanan was cornered on a houseboat in Miami. On July 23, when a caretaker entered the houseboat, Cunanan was upstairs in the bedroom. He shot himself with Trail’s .40-caliber handgun as the caretaker was opening the door downstairs.


In certain aspects, a homosexual can be more prepared to lead the life of a serial killer: He frequently has practice from childhood of concealing the nature of his sexuality and leading a secret life. Who knows what else was going on in Andrew Cunanan’s head, aside from his homosexuality? Cunanan might have felt betrayed by men he held important to him in his life—perhaps violated by his priest, abandoned by his father. In his last year, he was rejected by Grundy, his last millionaire “sugar daddy”; spurned by Madson, the man he loved; and turned away by Trail, his best friend. He killed the last two, and Lee Miglin in Chicago was an excellent stand-in for Grundy. There is no question that Miglin’s murder was an angry one.

The murder of Versace, coming two months after Cunanan had committed his string of murders almost one after another, is the strangest to explain. Cunanan can certainly be considered a “spree killer” in his first four murders, but the killing of Versace two months later is atypical. The gay bondage magazines Cunanan left behind in his room are evidence that his violent fantasies were not satiated by the murders. At that point, he had gestated into a serial killer perhaps with a burning hatred of gay males higher in the pecking order, more popular, more successful. As Ted Bundy once said, “Some people are just psychologically less ready for failure than others.”

 John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo—“The Beltway Snipers”

John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo were arrested for the Washington, D.C., beltway sniper killings, charged with at least ten shooting deaths in October 2002. Needless to say, forty-one-year-old Muhammad, who became a surrogate father to the seventeen-year-old Malvo, appears to have been the dominant half of the team.

John Allen Williams, who changed his surname to Muhammad in 2001, grew up in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His mother died when he was three and his father appears to have been absent—Muhammad was raised by his grandfather and elderly aunt. His relatives remember him as a happy kid. He was a star football player in high school.

After graduation in 1978, Muhammad enlisted in the Louisiana National Guard and married his high school sweetheart. They had a son. His fellow guardsmen remember Muhammad as an outgoing and friendly person, frequently bringing his son around to show him off.

In 1982 the first signs of trouble began to appear. He was fined and demoted one rank for failing to appear for duty; in 1983, he was fined again for striking an officer. In 1985 Muhammad converted to Islam, divorced his wife, and left the national guard to join the army. He moved to Fort Lewis, Washington, with his new girlfriend, whom he married in 1988; they had three children. His first wife, meanwhile, recalled that the divorce was bitter and that Muhammad attempted to control her and their son’s life in a heavy-handed way. In 1995, Muhammad was accused of failing to return his son to his first wife after a scheduled visit.

From 1990 to 1992 Muhammad served overseas and participated in Operation Desert Storm clearing mines and bulldozing holes through Iraqi defense lines. During his military service, Muhammad achieved an “expert” marksman’s grade—the highest shooting qualification in the Army.

Shortly after Muhammad’s arrest, Newsweek magazine interviewed his former sergeant in the gulf, Kip Berentson, who stated that Muhammad was “trouble from day one.”132 Berentson said that somebody threw a thermite grenade, setting on fire the tent he was sleeping in with another sixteen men. Berentson stated that he immediately reported Muhammad as the most likely suspect and claims that the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division led Muhammad away in handcuffs. Muhammad’s military records, however, make no mention of the incident; in fact, they apparently indicate that he had a distinguished record in the gulf.

In February 1994, Muhammad left the army and attempted to open a karate school, but the effort failed. He attempted several other business enterprises, but all failed. In 1999 his second wife filed for divorce, and in response Muhammad became highly threatening. In March 2000, she was granted a restraining order against Muhammad. Ten days later Muhammad snatched their three children and vanished. During that period he traveled to Antigua, where it is believed he met the teenage John Lee Malvo and his mother, both Jamaican nationals. Malvo’s former teachers and relatives in Jamaica remember the boy as clever, sweet-natured, friendly, and obedient. “Obedient” was the most often recalled characteristic. Never a hint of trouble, always respectful, and friendly. One of his friends recalled, “He was fun to be around. He always tried to create an atmosphere of love. He always wanted to entertain, make you laugh.”133

Malvo was also remembered as being small for his age and occasionally bullied for it. Malvo was often left in the care of his relatives or other guardians by his absent mother. His guardians, teachers, and relatives appeared very fond of Malvo and expressed concern when his mother shunted him back and forth from her custody to that of others. Eventually his mother took Malvo away to Antigua, where Muhammad encountered them.

In the summer of 2001, Muhammad returned to Washington and changed his legal name from Williams to Muhammad. Around the same time, Malvo and his mother illegally slipped into Florida in August 2001. It is still unclear what transpired, but in the summer of 2001 the police, with the help of Isa Nichols, a business consultant who had known both Muhammad and his wife, recovered the children Muhammad had abducted.

By October 2001, Malvo had joined Muhammad in Bellingham, Washington, calling him his father. The two were sleeping on bunks in a shelter for the homeless. Witnesses recall Malvo calling Muhammad “Dad” and “Sir.” Muhammad submitted the boy to some kind of training program consisting of jogging in the early mornings, working out, and adhering to strict Islamic dietary rules. Although an illegal immigrant, Malvo was put into a high school in Bellingham briefly, where students recall that the boy was well versed in the history and military technology of the Vietnam and Gulf wars.

The pair hung out at a coffee shop where Muhammad began to pay inordinate attention to a guitar player and her son. Claiming to be a record producer, he invited her to come with him to New York. She recalls, however, having a “bad feeling” about him; Muhammad seemed overly interested in her son and his half-black ethnicity.

In December, Malvo’s mother arrived in Bellingham seeking her son. The police inquiry into his whereabouts resulted in Malvo’s being detained briefly for immigration violations. Pending a hearing, he was released and continued to live with Muhammad while his mother vanished—probably on the run from immigration authorities.

In February 2002, Muhammad was arrested for shoplifting food worth $27 from a grocery store. That same month, twenty-one-year-old Keenya Cook, who lived with her aunt Isa Nichols, the woman who had helped police recover the children Muhammad abducted, opened her front door and was killed by a shot to her face. Police have not solved the murder, but the possible implications are obvious.

In April, Muhammad visited a former army buddy, showed him two rifles and a silencer, and apparently ranted about how much damage those weapons, if silenced, could do. Muhammad was coming apart, and somehow the process involved the loss of his children and his attempts to substitute them with surrogates.

In June 2002, Muhammad took Malvo to his childhood hometown in Louisiana, where he visited his cousins. They recall that Muhammad was uncharacteristically haggard, dirty, and sullen, while Malvo appeared fearful and withdrawn. Muhammad showed his cousin his rifle and ammunition and claimed to be on some kind of secret mission for Special Forces. He contacted his first wife in Louisiana and then turned north toward the Washington, D.C., area, where his second wife had recently moved with their three sons.

The movements of Muhammad and Malvo between June and September 2002 are very obscure. We know that on September 10, Muhammad purchased the blue Caprice automobile that would be modified as a mobile sniper’s nest. Muhammad and the vehicle were seen in the vicinity of his second wife’s residence in Maryland. On September 21, two women were ambushed and shot outside a liquor store in Montgomery, Alabama. One of the victims died. Although the details are still unclear, police have some kind of forensic evidence that links the crime to Muhammad and Malvo.

From October 1 to October 22, the world was transfixed by a series of sniper shootings in the Washington, D.C.–Maryland area. All took place near the extensive freeway system and paralyzed daily life in the region. Outdoor school activities were suspended, and every shooting broke into television programming as soon as it occurred. Some kind of communication demanding a $10 million ransom to cease killing was received from the snipers, and a tarot card was reported to have been left at one of the scenes. Ten victims in all were killed until apparently the snipers, in a phone call, linked themselves to the Montgomery, Alabama, shooting, from which their identity via fingerprints was surfaced. Within hours of the release of a description of the wanted men, they were apprehended asleep in their vehicle.

Muhammad and Malvo faced judge and jury in separate trials in the autumn of 2003. It appears that Muhammad might have acted as the “spotter” while the younger Malvo actually committed eight of the ten shootings—the prosecution never presented any evidence clearly indicating that Muhammad was the trigger man in any of the murders. Muhammad, nevertheless, was found guilty in November, with the jury recommending the death sentence. The teenage Malvo’s defense, in the meantime, is that he was “brainwashed” by the older Muhammad.

The motive behind the shooting spree remains unclear. According to Malvo’s defense attorney, the shootings were part of a secret plan by Muhammad to murder his ex-wife, Mildred, and regain custody of his children. The plan, unknown to Malvo, was to shoot Mildred and make it seem to be only one of the many sniper murders. The prosecution contends that the shootings were intended to extort a $10 million ransom with which Muhammad intended to establish a utopian commune in Canada for youngsters from around the world.

During his questioning by police, Malvo was asked, “Were you the trigger man in all of them?”

“Basically, yeah.”

“Basically means, in most but not all?”

“In all of them.”

When asked what the objective of the murders was, Malvo replied, “It’s a plan. You stick to it. You don’t deviate. You don’t change it.”

At his trial in November, his sixth-grade teacher testified that Malvo was “very dependable, hardworking. Whenever he was given a task, he’d do it to the end.”

His aunt, with whom he lived once, also testified, “He was very obedient. When I set down rules, he would obey them.”

Malvo was convicted in December and the jury recommended the youth be given a life sentence.

Whatever the motives, Muhammad and Malvo fit the newly emerging profile of the spree serial killer. Unlike the typical spree killer, they did not unleash their destruction oblivious to their own safety or escape. Instead they killed selectively and evaded the danger of arrest. Muhammad and Malvo were highly organized, carefully selecting sites that offered them quick access to the highway system for escape and customizing their vehicle as a sniper’s nest. But unlike traditional serial killers, they did not return to a normal life between their kills. They moved in a state of killing frenzy from murder to murder.

It will probably be found that Muhammad was the leading actor in these crimes and their timing reflected events in his life. Like Cunanan, Muhammad attempted to sustain a traditional life and career but somehow for some reason he failed. He was unable to cope with the failure and “snapped” into a raging homicidal campaign that took the lives of anywhere from ten to twelve innocent victims. In both cases, the homicidal snap followed a series of lesser breaks from the norms of society. Cunanan was dealing drugs; Muhammad was insubordinate in the military, abducted his children, and threatened his ex-wife. From a family man with a job in the military to a father with a bed in a homeless shelter whose children had been taken away, Muhammad was unable to cope with the failures of his life without blaming somebody or taking some kind of spectacularly lethal revenge. Cunanan’s decline mirrored a similar pattern.

What probably made Cunanan and Muhammad serial spree killers as opposed to mass killers is the absence of serious mental illness and the intact remnants of their intelligence, ego, and capability. Both Cunanan and Muhammad were relatively competent, proud, goal-oriented individuals, and they carried that competence with them into their killing sprees.


None of these criteria and categories are necessarily immutable. Every few years a serial killer appears on the scene whose sick fantasies and imagination defy the previously defined parameters and criteria. One only needs to remember that when Renwick Williams was prosecuted in 1790 as London “Monster” for slashing women’s clothing, his crime was described as “a scene that is so new in the annals of humanity, a scene so inexplicable, so unnatural, that one might have regarded it, out of respect for human nature, as impossible.” The annals of humanity, unfortunately, have come a long way since then, and probably still have a distance to go: Nothing is impossible!